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this is me trying

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Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee or the Supergirl Universe. No copyright infringement intended.


AN: This idea came about when I read up on Georgia Tann. As a result, I suspect quite a bit of suspension of disbelief will be required. Important things to note are that Lena is not a Luthor, and Quinn never had nose reconstruction surgery. Ages and timelines have also been a little altered, but there's nothing major. Cool. Please enjoy.


i. wondering if i dodged a bullet (or just lost the love of my life)

As far as bad days go, this one is right up there with the worst of them.

In hindsight, Lena should recognise the signs for what they are from the moment she opens her eyes. A splitting headache and cotton mouth indicate a hangover, and the ache in her chest is just further proof that everyone she's ever let into her life was always going to betray her.

Even Kara Danvers isn't an exception to that rule.

They're just coming off their latest fight. Lena will admit she's been prickly and needling, but she can't just -

She's done pretending that everything is okay, because it's not. Nothing is okay about the fact Kara has been lying to her for years. Nothing is okay that Kara coaxed her into this false sense of security with her easy smiles and gentle hands, and then just pulled the rug out from under her without a second thought.

Nothing is okay about anything, frankly.

And, what Lena has decided she needs is time. And space. Just some distance to work through the ache and wrap her head and heart around the idea that the one person she exposed her entire self to was never the whole of a person she expected from Kara.

It's so jarring just thinking about it. Kara Danvers is Supergirl, sure, but Lena gets the feeling that the biggest lie any of them can ever tell themselves is that Supergirl is Kara Danvers.

So, they yelled, Lena picking at every little thing Kara has said and done as she desperately tries to make up for the betrayal, until Kara eventually grew irritated with Lena's needless barbs. She sighed, exasperated and tense, and pointedly asked, 'what do you want from me, then? Because, from where I'm sitting, I'm the only one trying here,' with all the weariness of someone who has been trying.

And then Lena asked for time and space and distance, and she had to make sure not to look at Kara's face when she demanded those things. She asked for their relationship to remain strictly professional, and there was just the smallest part of her that felt some satisfaction in hurting Kara in a way she's been hurt, herself.

Surely, they all deserve to suffer.

And, Kara - sweet, adorable, lying Kara - stumbled through an agreement, even though it was clear to them both it was the absolute last thing she wanted to do. Because Kara is a doer. It's in her very being; built into her body just as much as her physical features. She's not idle. She doesn't handle stillness very well. She needs action; needs to be doing something, and Lena has told her she wants the exact opposite.

It has been only one week since that disastrous conversation, and Lena has never experienced a silence so loud. Kara doesn't text or call or email or even check in with Jess if she's eaten. Lena hasn't even seen the caped hero in that time; had no sensors going off on L-Corp's roof and heard no news of the flying woman beyond the various sound bites about her small heroics around the city.

Sure, it's been only one week, and Kara is giving Lena what she asked for, but -

Lena misses her.

Which kind of all just adds to Lena's really very bad day. She's pulled from slumber long before her morning alarm, and she can't get back to sleep. It's not an unusual thing, but it merely aggravates her terrible mood and weekday hangover.

She takes her time getting ready, seeing as she's so irritatingly early. Covers up the dark circles under her eyes with too much make-up and drinks enough Advil to battle the pounding in her head. She's too nauseous to eat, but she downs a shot of espresso that actually makes her feel worse.

God.

Can this day end already?

She asks the question of herself several times as she makes her own way to work, her driver still nearly an hour away. She imagines Frank is still at home, probably having breakfast with his wife and youngest child, and Lena won't drag him away from that just because her life feels as if it's falling apart.

Too many people are already suffering.

The weather doesn't help with Lena's mood, either. It's dark and gloomy as she steps outside, and she has the urge to turn right back around and ask Jess to cancel all her commitments for the day.

No.

She won't let Kara ruin both her personal and professional lives. She has a very important job to do; no matter what anyone thinks.

The thing is, you see, Lena doesn't think about it.

She doesn't think about the fact she's early to work, or the fact Kara made a point of syncing their schedules three months into their friendship. She barely even thinks about the panicked look Jess sends her when she steps out of the elevator on her floor, and she definitely thinks nothing of the high pitch of Jess' voice as she tries to stop Lena from entering her office.

She doesn't think, at all, that she's not supposed to be here yet.

And she definitely doesn't think about how it's actually possible to startle a super-powered alien. Because Kara Danvers is in Lena's office when she steps through the door, and Lena thinks of nothing except that her no good, terrible morning is all Kara's fault.

"What are you doing here?" Lena asks, and her tone of voice is so cold that she surprises even herself.

Kara actually jumps where she's standing near Lena's desk, turning around and looking so guilty that Lena hates her in this moment. The feeling is so potent and all-consuming, and why is Kara here? Why couldn't she just listen? Why does she insist on making it worse in her misguided desire to make it better?

"Lena," Kara squeaks, and she looks just as surprised to see Lena as Lena is to see her. "You're early."

"What?"

"Um." Kara fiddles with the small envelope in her hands. "I - um, I did hear you last week," she says, "but I - "

"Then why are you here?" Lena interrupts, and she barely even cares. Her entire body is tense, cued up, and there's a part of her that's been gearing up for a fight. She wishes Kara would just stop taking everything Lena keeps throwing at her. She needs her to fight back.

She needs her to fight.

"Lena," Kara starts, and her facial expression is so pained, as if she can tell exactly what Lena wants from her and she isn't willing to give it. "Please."

Well, if Kara isn't going to give her what she wants, then -

The next words Lena says are both shocking and inevitable. "We're done."

Kara's eyes are as wide as her mouth.

Lena can't take it anymore. The constant ache in her chest; the forever questioning of what else was just fabrication. What was real? Was any of it? "I think you've established a pattern of betrayal," Lena says, and Kara goes still. "I told you what I wanted. Time and space, and you couldn't even give me that. Couldn't even make it one week. Couldn't even give me the benefit of listening to what I asked for, after what you've done to this friendship." Her spine straightens. "Well. I guess we no longer have to worry about that."

"Lena."

"We're done," Lena says again. "Or are you just conveniently going to ignore what I want again?"

It must be that sentence that gets to Kara, because she's always been malleable and giving and kind and so sensitive to everything Lena has ever needed and not known how to ask for.

Well, now she's asking.

Kara ducks her head and takes in a shaky breath. It looks like she's trying not to cry, and Lena forces herself not to care. Enough tears have been shed over this mess Kara has created for them. Her own, sure, but also Kara's. Maybe it's better they just stop all of this.

"I just don't want you to think I'm not trying," Kara admits quietly.

The words prick at Lena's insides. "Well, I don't want you to keep trying," she asserts, and she's almost sure she means it. This day, this past week, this whole month. Just, all of it, it's been so hard, and she's convinced it would be better if she no longer had to deal with this turmoil. It's too much.

She doesn't want any of it.

"And, that's really what you want?" Kara asks, voice trembling.

"What I wanted was time and space, but you couldn't even give me that," Lena points out, and it's such a petty thing to make it all Kara's fault; to blame her for a decision Lena knows she's been waiting to make.

Now she has a reason.

"But, yes, God, just leave me alone," Lena says. "I don't want to be part of this mess anymore. Just forget about me, and I'll forget about you, and we can both get on with our lives the way you made sure we were always destined to: apart."

Kara just stares at her, eyes pleading, and Lena can't stand it.

"Don't you realise what you've done?" she hisses. "How you've twisted everything. Destroyed it. Destroyed me! You are now the worst thing that's ever happened to me, and I hate you for it."

The silence that follows is long and uncomfortable, and Lena wonders if they're just going to exist here for all of eternity. An unstoppable force and an immovable object.

But then Kara says, "Okay," like it's the punishment they both know it is. It'll hurt them both, in different ways, but Lena isn't about to give either of them what they truly want right now. She's both a masochist and a sadist that way.

"Okay," Kara says again, finally lifting her head and meeting Lena's gaze head-on. Her eyes are so terrifyingly blue, shining with unshed tears, and Lena would reach out to her if it wouldn't make everything that much worse.

Kara looks down at the envelope in her hands, running a finger along its short edge. She seems to make a decision in the moment and says, "This is why I'm here." She licks her lips. "If we weren't going to see each other for a while, I wanted you to have it."

"I don't want anything more from you," Lena says, irritated. "God, haven't you done enough?"

Kara looks at her. Really just looks at her. Long and hard, as if she can see every sinew of Lena's flesh. Maybe she can. "Okay," she says for the third time, and then she starts to move. Towards the door, and towards Lena.

Lena steps back and to the side, giving her a wide berth, and it must be that move that really breaks them. Because Lena has always leaned towards Kara; sought her out and wanted her near.

It's a sucker punch, and Kara's breath catches.

Lena ignores it. Doesn't think about anything. "You're not going to use the balcony, Supergirl?" she asks with as much disdain as she can muster.

Kara flinches, but there's a certain steel in her eyes when she shakes her head and says, "I know I deserve everything you're dishing out, and I will take it, but you are not allowed to erase a part of my identity." Then she's out the door, and Lena stands frozen, hidden from view.

She can't even breathe.

Just listens as Jess says, "I'm sorry, Kara," in a way that shows she means it. "I didn't think she would come in this early."

"It's okay," Kara says, and her voice gives away that it's anything but. "It was a long shot, anyway. I should have just listened."

Jess hums. "You didn't give it to her?"

"She doesn't want it."

"You have to give it to her, Kara," Jess insists.

"She doesn't want it," Kara repeats, and her voice is harder now. "I just - she doesn't want it, so I'm going to give her what she does want."

"Kara?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you sure?"

Kara remains silent, and Lena can only imagine what her expression must look like. Kara wears heartbreak so acutely, for everyone to see, and Lena hates that this is what they've become.

"I really am sorry," Jess says, and there's something else in her voice. As if she's apologising for more than a shattered friendship. As if she knows there's so much more to it, though Lena can't figure out how that could be.

"I would have told her sooner, you know," Kara says, and Lena sucks in a breath that Kara must be able to hear, even without super hearing. Kara clears her throat. "Anyway, I better get to work," she says. "Stories to chase and all that. Can I drop this in here? Thanks. See you around, Jess."

"Kara, wait," Jess tries.

"No, I have to - " Kara starts. "I have to go. It's what she wants."

"We both know it's not."

And, Kara laughs. It's this dark, humourless sound that Lena thought her incapable of until this moment. "She doesn't want me."

"That's because she doesn't know that - "

"Jess, please."

"She's just hurting."

"Because of me."

Jess sighs. "That's it? That's just it? You're giving up?"

Lena would ask the same question too. Why isn't Kara still fighting? Why isn't she fighting at all?

"Haven't I already done enough?" Kara asks, and it's a bitter echo of Lena's own words. Final in a way that disappoints Lena. She knows it would be a confusing thing, but she wants Kara to stay, regardless of what she says. She doesn't want Kara to leave her, even if the only thing she's doing is berating her for not listening in the first place.

It isn't fair, Lena knows, but it might be the only way both of them stay intact. Because, if Kara stays, they'll just end up hurting each other more.

Which is why it makes sense when Kara says, "I still have to protect what's left of me," and Lena will wonder about the true meaning of those words for days on end.

But not today.

When it's obvious Kara has finally departed, Lena moves to sit at her desk, feeling even more exhausted than she did when she first arrived - who knew that was even possible?

"Jess," Lena eventually calls out once she's settled, and Jess takes only a moment to appear in her open doorway. She steps through at a wave of Lena's hand, and Lena wastes not a moment before she's saying, "I want Kara Danvers' access to the building revoked with immediate effect," and it feels like the nail in the coffin.

Jess looks a little startled at the request, but she nods in acquiesce, before the two of them go over Lena's schedule for the day.

A terrible, horrible day that doesn't actually get any better. She has back-to-back meetings until Jess brings her a kale salad at what is supposed to be a lunch hour she shares with Kara, and Lena just picks at it.

Jess says nothing about it, or about Kara, or about the fact she was witness to the ending of a friendship Lena still isn't certain was ever real. She says nothing about the afternoon drink Lena has, or the fact she stays in her office until well after nine o'clock.

It's why Lena pays her so grossly, and she actually considers giving her a raise. Well, she does right until the moment she's leaving for the evening, walks past Jess' desk and sees a familiar yet foreign envelope sitting on the edge of said desk. Waiting. Taunting.

Lena freezes.

Jess doesn't even look up.

"What is that?" Lena asks, voice steady.

"What's what?" Jess echoes.

"That." Lena points at the letter, and Jess finally lifts her gaze. "Why is that there?"

"It's yours," Jess tells her. "Found it in the trash, though, so I dug it out for whenever you're ready to read it."

"Jess," Lena says, and there's a hint of warning in her tone of voice.

"Whenever you're ready," Jess says, easy and simple, and Lena huffs once, twice, and then picks up the letter to toss it into the trash herself. She thinks nothing of it as she bids Jess Goodnight and resumes her walk to the elevators.

Doesn't think of anything at all until she gets to work the next morning - with less of a hangover, thank you very much - and the letter is back sitting on the edge of Jess' desk. Not so innocently. Still taunting her.

Lena stares at it for a moment, and then walks right past it without giving it much more thought. She has a job to do, and it helps being so busy. That way she doesn't wonder about Kara or what Kara's doing or how she is or -

Thinking is just too exhausting, sometimes.

The letter is still sitting there when Lena leaves for the night, and it ends up in the trash for a third time, twice by her own hand. There's an odd sense of satisfaction in the action, and she almost starts to look forward to it at the end of her work days.

Because those work days are hell on Earth.

Lena hadn't quite considered what it would mean to have Kara completely out of her life. Cold turkey. Nothing. Not a peep. Zero contact at all.

Even before their sensitive truce, Kara still contacted her daily, trying to re-establish contact and communication between the two of them. But things are very different now.

There are no endless texts coming through and no pictures of cute puppies. There are no reminders to eat and stay hydrated. No requests to meet for lunch. No 'just checking in' messages.

It is so wild that, now that Kara doesn't text her, her personal phone is so, so eerily quiet.

Alex texts, a handful of times, but Lena deletes them without reading them. Kelly always asks how she's doing, but Lena doesn't know how to talk to her. Nia tries to visit, but all CatCo personnel have also been barred from the building.

Lena isn't even going to think about Brainy. Or James.

So, Lena will find a little joy wherever she can find it, and it comes in the form of throwing away a letter every evening and just knowing it's going to reappear in the morning. Almost like magic. A boomerang, maybe.

Which is comforting in a way, because Lena is a scientist by nature, and there's a part of her that's deeply curious about the letter's contents, of course. It's just that she's more stubborn than curious at the moment, and giving in would be admitting defeat in a battle only she is aware of.

It is just a small comfort to continue with her new daily ritual, eased by the normalcy of whatever she and Jess have going on.

Which is why it throws her for a complete loop when that changes. It's unexpected, arriving at work and finding Jess' desk empty of any sign of the letter. It's become such a daily thing that Lena actually stops walking and frowns.

"Jess?"

"Good morning, Miss Luthor."

Lena stays perfectly still as she says, "The letter's gone."

And Jess says, "Well, you did throw it out last night."

Lena turns her head, unsure what to make of the unsettled feeling in her chest. "You told me whenever I'm ready," she points out, a little hurt at the sudden change.

"It's been a month," Jess replies, and Lena actually does a double-take at the sound of that.

A month?

It's been a whole month? Without Kara?

How has Lena managed to get through it? Has she, actually, because she doesn't feel as if she's been living in these four weeks? Merely going through the motions, day by day, just waiting for something to happen; something to give.

"Oh."

Jess nods slowly. "I thought, perhaps, it was time I stopped trying," she says. "Take a page out of Kara's book and give you exactly what you want, right? Who am I to think I know better than what you say and do, right?"

Lena raises her eyebrows, because Jess' psychological play is so obvious that Lena would laugh.

If it weren't working.

"Where is the letter?" Lena asks.

Jess' gaze doesn't waver. "In my drawer."

"Put it back."

Jess puts it back.

"Good." Lena walks into her office, closes the door, and tries not to fall apart at the fact this is the first time she's even heard Kara's name in an entire month.

An entire month.

Where has the time gone?

So much could have happened in a month. So much probably has happened.

Which is why Lena does what she does next. She's been very careful to filter her incoming news, blocking anything Supergirl or Kara Danvers related, but she spends the next hour catching herself up on the highlights of the last month.

Supergirl has been busy.

That's really the impression Lena gets from the many, many articles she finds when she temporarily lifts her block. It's all people can comment on, really, just how present Supergirl has been in the last month. Does she even sleep? Surely she has a day job? All these things they say and speculate, and Lena -

She knows what Kara is doing, because Lena is doing the same thing. It's just that her coping mechanisms produce prototypes and make her company millions, whereas Kara's directly save lives.

It does make Lena think about the last thing Lena said to her, though. About erasing part of her identity. And now it seems Kara is doing that, because being Supergirl this often can't leave a lot of time for being Kara Danvers, surely.

But.

Perhaps that's the point. Sometimes, Lena would like nothing more than to escape having to be Lena Luthor. It is the stuff of dreams to be able to shed the name and just exist.

News of Kara Danvers, though, does come in the form of articles she's written, some getting more traction than others, but Lena can't bring herself to read any of them. She's incapable of doing so without hearing them in Kara's voice.

With a sigh, she closes all her tabs, resumes the content block, and then spends a few minutes looking out the windows of her office. For some inexplicable reason, she's convinced she'll see Supergirl just by looking, but she hasn't seen the woman in person in one month, apparently.

It is as jarring as she always thought it would be, but this is what her life is now, and the least she can do is get through it. She's got through a lot worse.

That evening, when Lena is leaving for home, she walks straight past the letter on Jess' desk without throwing it away, and she's sure they both consider that a win. A step in the right direction, as it were. Lena can only imagine the smug look on Jess' face, but neither of them comments on this little change.

Because, still the letter sits.

Days pass, Lena just going through the motions of running her company and staying alive. There is no pleasure in her days, and the glaring hole that was Kara's constantly pulling her in directions out of her comfort zone to try anything and everything has never felt so oppressive.

But Kara doesn't call or text or email. She doesn't DM or tag her in the comments section of some humorous meme. The only satisfaction Lena has - and it is sad sad sad - is that she's certain this cavern between them must be hurting Kara just as much.

Well.

She can only hope.

Because the awful part of her brain would force her to consider that Kara might be happier without her. All of them would be. Without the Luthor in their lives, adding complications and forcing them to question themselves.

If not happier, they must be safer.

Because two months pass since that fateful day in Lena's office, and nobody has tried to kill her - that she knows of, at least. It must be something of a record, truly, and she won't let herself wonder if Supergirl's distance from her is the reason for it. That Kara might have been valid in keeping her identities so separate, in a vain attempt to keep Lena safe.

No.

Lena doesn't let herself think that, at all.

Not until it's been two months and four days, and there's a product launch held in the foyer of L-Corp. It isn't a big event, and Lena has to sign off on allowing a CatCo reporter to attend the launch. She doesn't think it will end up being Kara, and she's caught between relief and disappointment when she sees a name on the list she doesn't recognise.

William Something. He's already unimportant, and she's decided he's going to receive the standard press release Jess already prepared. It's a little petty, but she told herself a long time ago that the only reporter she would work with would be Kara Danvers, and that's not changing.

But. You see. The thing is.

While Kara Danvers might not be in attendance, Supergirl is forced to be. It's really just the normal, run-of-the-mill assassination attempt, chaos breaking out among the gathered crowd. The kicker is that the would-be assassins use alien technology in their weapons, which prompts the DEO's arrival - and Supergirl's.

It's the first time Lena has seen her in the flesh in so long, and it is an overwhelming, heartbreaking thing to realise time and distance haven't lessened any of Lena's feelings for her. Both positive and negative, caught in this cacophony of love and hate and rage and longing.

Kara, wisely, remains as far away from Lena as she possibly can, assisting with the cleanup and identifying the alien parts used in the weapons. The DEO agent that questions Lena isn't one she recognises, and she spends a moment noting that Alex hasn't even shown up at the scene.

In the grand scheme of things, the situation could have been a lot worse. There are no casualties and no serious injuries. Just some scratches and scrapes. Lena has been through this enough to have some top-notch security systems in place. The safety of her employees is very important to her.

The aftermath is surprisingly quick, statements given and the scene cleared once all the suspects have been gathered. There's no reason for Lena to hang around and even less reason for Supergirl to linger.

There is a moment.

It's brief, barely registering in the post-incident hubbub, but Lena looks at Kara at the exact same moment Kara looks at her, and the two of them don't immediately avert their gazes. Lena could almost forget just how blue Kara's eyes are, or just how much emotion they can hold.

She's forgot nothing.

Lena looks away first, her heart thudding in her chest. It hurts, and she doesn't anticipate there being a day that it stops. When her gaze lifts back up, Kara is gone, and Lena knows it's for the best.

Maybe it's what Lena needed, because seeing Kara right in front of her is all the prompting she needs to walk past Jess' desk and take the letter with her. She doesn't know if she's ready to read it - whatever it is - but it's a step in a certain direction and that must count for something.

The letter remains in a drawer in her desk for another three days before she can bring herself to look at it again, let alone read it. It sits on her desk for another twelve minutes before she takes it into her hands.

It takes her another fifteen minutes to open the letter, and then a further four actually to read it. It's written in Kara's familiar scrawl, slightly slanted but oh so perfect.

Lena reads quickly the first time, and then slower the second and third time. It's during the fourth read that Lena calls for Jess, who appears in an instant. As if she's been waiting for this exact moment.

She probably has. "Yes, Miss Luthor."

Lena would even claim Jess sounds just slightly smug in this moment. "Get the jet ready," she starts, and Jess smiles so manically that Lena's immensely relieved she's one of the good ones.

"Already done," Jess says. "You leave in an hour. Your bags are already packed."

Lena shouldn't even be surprised. She's sure Jess has had a flight plan waiting to be filed every morning for the past two months; just hoping that one morning would be the time Lena took the plunge.

"I can have Frank pick you up in five minutes," Jess says.

Which is really how Lena finds herself sitting in the back of her private car not even seven minutes later, with a cross-country destination on her agenda. She's restless, her right leg bouncing in an uncharacteristic display of nerves.

It can't be.

It's impossible.

Lena has already wasted no expense in this endeavour. How could it be that she missed this? How? It doesn't make sense. None of it makes sense.

The flight itself is worse than the drive to the private airstrip. She's alone with her thoughts, tempted to do her own research to confirm the validity of the discovery, but she knows it has to be true.

Kara would never tell her something this life-changing without being completely certain of it. She's too much of a journalist for such a thing. (Lena won't let herself think it, but she also knows Kara cares too much to give her false information like this. Not after everything they've already been through).

It's while she's on the plane that she receives an email from Jess, with the subject: Because I know you missed it. The email is mainly a link to an article Kara Danvers published a few weeks ago, which is already getting Pulitzer buzz. The content, though, is just as heavily linked to Lena as Kara's first foray into such intense investigative journalism.

In the article, Kara even writes that she only discovered the operation because she was actively researching one of her close friend's adoption records.

Lena's. Though she remains unnamed.

The article has been groundbreaking in a way that's particularly devastating. The number of lives affected by the truths revealed is astronomical, and Lena knows Kara must have agonised over whether she would be causing more pain by publishing what she learned than not.

In the end, the truth is always best, right? No matter how much it hurts. Right?

The thing is that Lena knows just how profitable human (and alien) trafficking can be. There is especially a sickening market for children. She just didn't think she would ever be part of such a thing - at least, not in this way.

She's supposed to be a Luthor, isn't she?

It's when Lena lands in Gotham City that the reality of what she's about to do really catches up with her. Based on Kara's article and whatever itinerary Jess has prepared for her, she knows she's headed to the FBI Headquarters where the joint task force has been stationed for the past few weeks.

What Lena knows is her adoption was falsified. What she knows is that the adoption agency her parents used to get her was never registered and was actually a front for trafficking stolen children and selling them to the highest payers.

Now, Lena has been through far too much in her twenty-four years of life and she can't even be surprised that there's more to her existence than she thought. Nobody deigned to tell her otherwise, anyway, and her memories have offered her nothing but the feeling of once being loved unconditionally.

There's a car waiting for her when she lands, a hotel room already reserved should she need it, and a meeting with an agent already scheduled for her arrival. It still doesn't quite feel real, and Lena can't bring herself to sit still as she's driven across the city. She's antsy and just a little terrified, hoping she can find some answers to the questions she has about her origins and just how she came to be with the Luthor family.

When she gets to her destination, Lena actually doesn't want to go inside. She'll get answers, sure, but then she's sure she'll have even more questions. It takes six minutes to work up the willpower to enter the building, and a further seven to find herself seated beside the desk of one Agent Marissa Coufal.

She's young, probably just a little older than Lena, and she looks exhausted. Weary to the bone, but she smiles when she sets a file in front of Lena. "We've been working non-stop to figure this all out," she explains. "There are some records, but a lot of them have been falsified. The only sure way we've been able to confirm children is if they actually come in." She runs a distracted hand through her hair. "The adoption certificates on file usually aren't the names that the older children go by now, and we've had thousands to go through."

"Thousands?"

Agent Coufal nods. "It went on for years," she explains. "Over numerous states. It's truly a logistical nightmare."

Lena can only imagine, though she's sure she has systems and code she could apply at the problem. "Have you been able to reunite any families?" she asks, and she can't quite keep the longing out of her voice.

Agent Coufal must hear it, because her features soften. "A few," she admits. "But the stars seemed to align in those instances. I'm afraid there is a real possibility that there are hundreds, even thousands, of families that will never learn the complete truth."

"Oh."

She taps the file on her desk, gently sliding it towards Lena. "This is what we have on your entire adoption," she says. "It remains unclear how much is actually true."

This is what Lena learns about herself: nothing she didn't already know.

She was four years old at the time of her adoption, the daughter of a deceased mother - whose name is written as Janet Smith, which is obviously fake - and an unlisted father. Lena was among a lot of children during the month of March in 1994 and she was housed at the agency in Gotham City for nearly three weeks before she went to Luthor Manor.

Lena's own memories of her childhood seem to start right there, because there's nearly nothing she remembers from before the day she met Lex. That moment is so stark in her life, singed into her brain, and she can't realistically claim she would get rid of it if given the opportunity.

"It's not much," Lena finally says, reality clouding her disappointment. She's not entirely sure what she was expecting, but she feels worse than she did when she arrived.

"I'm sorry," Agent Coufal says, and she sounds as if she means it. "What I can do is input your DNA into our growing Operation Ellis database and see if anything comes up," she offers.

Lena politely declines such a thing, because the last thing she needs is her DNA in government hands. She's learned many a lesson in the past.

"There's a group that meets every Thursday," Agent Coufal tells her as she scribbles on a pink Post-It note. "Others like you."

Lena blinks. "Like me?"

Agent Coufal hums. "Men and women who have had their lives permanently altered by all of this," she explains. "I think it's helping people to know they're not the only ones going through this."

Lena takes the Post-It when the agent hands it to her.

"That's the address and the time," the woman says. "It couldn't hurt to give it a try. Especially if you're struggling with what this all means for you."

Lena wouldn't admit that much, but Agent Coufal must be able to see something on her face or in her eyes. "Thank you," she says as she gets to her feet. "I - thank you."

"Of course," she says. "I'll contact you as soon as we have more information."

Lena doesn't feel any better about her situation when she leaves, and the one thing she wants to do is call Kara. She needs to hear her voice tell her it's going to be okay.

She calls Jess instead.

"How long have you known?" Lena asks as soon as Jess answers.

Jess doesn't even hesitate. "Three months, give or take," she tells her. "Around the same time you and Kara first had your falling out."

Lena looks to the skies and sighs as she walks down the street. "Jess?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you know why Kara and I are no longer on speaking terms?"

"No."

Lena, admittedly, is surprised by that. "She told you that she would have told me sooner," she says. "To what was she referring?"

"Operation Ellis," Jess tells her. "She wanted to do something for you, to make up for whatever broke the two of you, and she asked me for some help locating any family you had. She found this conspiracy instead."

"And then she didn't tell me?"

"And then she researched and followed leads to make sure it was all real and true… and then she didn't tell you, yes."

Lena sighs. "I always knew I wasn't a Luthor," she says. "I've known about my adoption since the very beginning, but none of this has helped me understand why they would have paid for me if they never even wanted me."

Jess remains silent.

It's not something she could ask Lillian, definitely, and the Luthor men are both no longer alive to offer any insight. She's on her own all over again, and it feels lonelier this time around.

Jess clears her throat. "Should I get the jet ready?" she asks.

Lena fiddles with the Post-It given to her by Agent Coufal. "No," she says. "Not yet. There's somewhere I have to be tonight." It's Thursday, after all.

"Of course, Miss Luthor."

When Lena hangs up, she's tempted to call Kara again, but goes to get herself a coffee instead. It's been some time since she's been in Gotham City, and she has to spend only a few hours in it to be reminded why it's not a place to which she would normally return.

It's just in such contrast to the sunshine that is National City. She means the weather, of course, and not Kara, but her heart knows the truth.

To kill time and keep herself distracted, Lena slides into a sense of anonymity and finds a quaint and quiet café to get some work done. Emails are easy enough to send, and she goes through project plans for the rest of the afternoon. She's always appreciated a change of scenery, but the recent years have made this spontaneous streak of hers obsolete.

Kara Danvers was more than enough excitement, and a definite reason to remain in one place.

No.

Lena's not thinking about any of that right now. She has more than enough going on. Kara isn't a problem she's willing to solve at the moment. Possibly ever.

When it's time, Lena packs up her things, makes sure the check is settled and leaves a generous tip, and then makes her way over to the meeting's venue. She wouldn't say she's nervous, but there's a part of her that's wary. She doesn't want to be recognised, of course, but she also isn't sure what she's going to be walking into. She's not a fan of unknowns.

Lena definitely doesn't expect there to be as many people in attendance as she finds. The hall is filled with people, chairs in lines, a table of refreshments against a side wall and a small podium at the front. Lena takes it all in with some hesitance, but she's forced to step forward when a pair of women enter behind her.

One of them smiles in understanding, but keeps walking behind the other women. Maybe it won't be so bad. Hopefully.

Lena straightens, smoothing her hands over her blouse. Nothing is expected of her. She can just sit in the back and listen. That's accepted in group therapy, isn't it? Lena wouldn't actually know.

She takes steps forward, eyes searching for a free seat near the back, but it seems she's not the only one with that idea. There is a blonde woman sitting very stiffly right in the back, and Lena imagines that's what she's about to look like once she takes her seat.

Which she does, two seats over from the woman.

Then she waits.

Listens and learns.


It's Frannie who sends Quinn the article, along with the message: Mom couldn't send it herself, but it's time you know. She said to tell you she's sorry, Lucy. So am I. Nothing quite makes sense to Quinn when she sees the contents of the article, because what does some bogus adoption agency have to do with her?

Well.

It's two weeks into Quinn's sophomore year of college, and she just knows things are about to change. She spent the summer either travelling Europe with a few of her college friends or in Sacramento with her mother, sister and sister's family.

After Judy's move out of Ohio, there's really been no need for Quinn to return to Lima, and it wouldn't be a choice she would make, anyway.

It's not as if anyone misses her anyway. Freshman year was eye-opening in many ways and, as much as she tried to maintain some of her high school friendships, she had to stop trying eventually. She told herself she wouldn't drag any anchors with her, but some of them were more difficult to leave behind than others.

It's just that Quinn has decided she has more self-respect than chasing after people who don't have time for her. She's Quinn Fabray, and she's not going to let herself forget that.

But now the summer's over and she's in New Haven, getting back into her school routine, and Frannie sends her an article that is about to blow apart her entire existence.

It's horrifying, what Quinn reads. As someone viewing the article with no apparent interest, it makes her feel sick that there are people in this world who would actually steal children from their homes and families - literal babies - and just sell them to unsuspecting couples who want nothing more than to be parents.

Quinn reads the words, and then sends her sister a reply of, why would you send me this?

Frannie doesn't get back to her until the next day, and her latest email includes the words, because you're one of them, with an attachment of an actual adoption certificate.

Quinn's.

The sight of it is so shocking that Quinn actually laughs at its absurdity. She's relieved she's alone in her bedroom, hunched over her laptop at her desk and staring at what must be a -

Quinn grabs her phone and immediately dials Frannie's number.

"Luce," Frannie answers mere seconds later.

"Tell me this is a joke," Quinn demands.

Frannie sighs. "Lucille."

Quinn's jaw clenches. "You know I hate it when you call me that," she says. "Tell me you're just messing with me, Frannie. I am - this isn't real, right? Why would - what the hell is going on?"

"They didn't know," Frannie starts.

"Who?" Quinn presses, and there's panic building in her chest, threatening to seize control. "Who didn't know what? What is all of this?"

"They didn't know where you came from," Frannie explains. "Mom and Dad. They just - you were never supposed to find out, but - "

"Frannie, please," Quinn says, and she's pleading but she doesn't care. "This isn't - "

"I'm sorry," Frannie says. "Mom is sorry. She didn't know that they took you from someone else. She never would have - she just - after what happened with - she just really wanted you."

"Frannie, no, please don't - "

And when Frannie says, "Didn't you ever wonder why your hair was always so much darker than ours?" Quinn immediately hangs up the phone and throws it across the room. It makes a sickening sound as it hits the wall, but not nearly enough to match the sound that rips from Quinn's throat.

It can't be real.

No, there has to be some kind of mistake.

Quinn takes a few deep breaths to keep herself calm, and then spends the next hour researching everything she can on what has been dubbed Operation Ellis. Quinn doesn't understand why they chose that name, but she learns there's a task force working out of Gotham City with the sole intention of identifying and possibly reuniting all the families and children affected, all while trying to find the perpetrators.

There's an open invitation to any and all people who believe they are somehow affected to help the investigation along, and Quinn books a train ticket to Gotham City for the next day before she can stop herself.

Because she needs to know. If she's on some kind of list. If there are some kind of records of her. If this is really all some sick, horrific joke her sister is pulling on her.

She just needs to know.

Which is really the moment another email pops up in her inbox. This time from her mother, offering apologies, confirmations and explanations.

Quinn's laptop promptly joins her phone.


A woman who introduces herself as Gina gets the meeting started, and she's quirky enough to be borderline irritating. She's sweet, though, and opens the floor after a small soundbite about how she now knows why she's the only one in her family who actually likes pickles.

Lena might just hate her on principle. Who even likes pickles?

The entire thing is actually kind of depressing, if Lena's honest. Men and women, both younger and older than her, stand up there and tell their stories. Most of them talk about how much of a shock this entire thing has been. Some mention they weren't even aware they were adopted until their families came clean or they were able to be found and contacted by the task force.

There are some who seem relieved to know they don't actually belong to the families in which they were raised, and there are others who wish they were never made aware they're all stolen children. Some seem remarkably fine with the news, and some actually break down crying.

A lot of them, actually.

Lena actually cringes when the third one in a row starts sobbing mid-sentence and she ducks her head, muttering, "Oh, God, not again," under her breath.

The blonde woman two seats away snorts as if she's heard her, and Lena's eyes snap towards her. "Sorry," she says, eyes a little bloodshot, a slight rasp to her voice. "You just - you're right."

Lena blinks. "About what?"

"It's just really depressing, isn't it?"

Lena nods once. "Were you under the impression coming here would make you feel better?"

She shrugs. "Just didn't expect to feel worse," she says. "But, shit… and here I thought I had it bad."

"Nothing worth crying over?" Lena asks, weirdly enjoying the cynicism in the other woman's tone.

"I mean, I probably exhausted my tear ducts during my high school years," she says, "but I'd rather die than cry over the fact my family isn't my family in front of a bunch of strangers."

"I hear it's therapeutic."

Another snort. "Are you planning on going up there, then?"

"God, no."

The woman glances over at her, eyes just a little lighter. "I considered it," she offers, "but I actually might have dove into how fucking unfair life is and maybe started a riot in the process."

Lena's eyebrows rise. "Reckon you have that much power?"

"I was Head Cheerleader," she says. "How much harder could it be to get a bunch of people suffering identity crises to stick it to the man than it is to get a bunch of girls not to sleep with one another's boyfriends?"

"That actually sounds like a tricky operation," Lena comments, finding herself starting to relax.

"Harder still to get them not to sleep with each other," she adds with a small smile, and there's just something about the tilt of her mouth that -

A door slams, and Lena's head snaps up, just catching the tail-end of what seems like a runout. Gina's back at the podium, looking a little surprised by the turn of events, and she gently suggests they take a break, inviting them to mingle and partake in refreshments.

Lena doesn't move, and neither does her surprising companion.

"I didn't know," the woman says, barely above a whisper. "I didn't know I was adopted, and I probably would have gone my entire life without knowing if it wasn't for that stupid article."

Lena internally winces, because she knows the writer of said stupid article. "And you'd rather not know?"

She shrugs. "Are you glad you know?"

"I've always known I'm adopted," Lena informs her. "I guess I'm hoping my biological family turns out to be better than my adoptive one."

"They could be worse."

It's Lena's turn to let out a snort, and the woman looks over in a mixture of surprise and something that's a little impressed. "I highly doubt that," she says, and there's enough certainty in her voice that the woman doesn't even question it.

Chapter Text

ii. if you never bleed, you're never gonna grow

Quinn learns she was adopted on what was a Friday.

An Agent Liam Hazard shows her what must be her file, which doesn't offer much more information besides the fact her biological mother died in childbirth and there was never a listed father.

According to the records, Quinn was only one month old when the Fabray family took her home. She was sickly at the time, and there's a note in her file that she was colicky. She obviously has no memory of any of this, but she gets the feeling it doesn't matter if it's all true or not.

"What happens now?" Quinn asks the agent, her eyes lingering on the page that has both her parents' signatures. Actual evidence that Russell Fabray wanted her once upon a time - sort of.

Agent Hazard takes a breath before he says, "We're constantly searching for any links we can find, but I can't make any assurances." He fiddles with his tie. "It could very well be that your biological mother did die in childbirth, Miss Fabray."

Quinn's heart aches at the mere thought. How can she be this heartbroken over someone she can't remember ever meeting?

"What we're discovering is that babies were taken straight from hospitals," he explains. "Taken from young, single mothers, who were deemed unfit. We've had instances where children were said to have died, or taken by people claiming to be from social services and just never returned. The demand for children was high, and this organisation did everything they could to maintain the supply."

Quinn feels sick all over again. "Shit."

Agent Hazard nods. "What I can do for you is add you to our growing database," he explains. "By taking your details and cataloguing your DNA, we should hopefully be able to find you some answers."

Quinn gives him a look. "I don't know how comfortable I am just giving the government my DNA," she says.

It gets a tired smile out of the agent. "That's understandable," he says, as if it's not the first time he's dealt with this worry. "If it makes you feel more comfortable, the database you'll go into is restricted solely to Operation Ellis."

Quinn doesn't care, not really, so she signs whatever forms she needs to and gives Agent Hazard whatever he asks for. She's already missing classes because of this, so what else does she have to lose?

Before she leaves, Agent Hazard hands her his business card with a smile that Quinn might have found attractive if she were actually in the headspace to be attracted to anyone. "I've written an address on the back," he tells her. "Some of the other children and families we've found have been meeting every Thursday. I don't know if it's something you'll need, but I would recommend checking it out to know for sure."

Thursday.

Today is Tuesday.

Quinn didn't come to Gotham City with the intention of staying, but there's a part of her that feels rooted here. She has to stay, for some reason, and she just doesn't yet know what that reason is.

When Quinn leaves, she feels both heavy and light. She has answers but more questions, and she doesn't know where to go with them. She hasn't been able to talk to anyone about this, unsure how to get the words out.

Frannie and her mother are out of the question, and it's been a good thing that she managed to destroy her phone. She'll have to replace it soon, of course, but being unable to be reached is both a relief and startlingly lonely.

Quinn could call one of her suite mates and explain the 'family emergency' she's gone on, but Amy has her own life to be worrying about, even if Quinn knows she'd be mad that Quinn isn't confiding in her about something this big. And Poppy, well, she's probably pulled yet another all-nighter.

There's also Sam, whom she hasn't spoken to in a few weeks, but he could probably talk her down from whatever cliff she's stepped up to. Because her life has been blown apart, yet again, and she doesn't know who to turn to other than herself. She's the only one she's ever really been able to rely on.

For a terrifying moment, she considers calling Rachel, but she quickly shuts down that idea. There's nothing Rachel can do for her now, and Quinn is too stubborn to ask, anyway.

Before she can give herself a headache, she starts walking, hands tucked into her pockets as she crosses the road. She needs some coffee.


"Do you want some coffee?"

Lena glances over at the refreshments table, noting just how many people are crowded around it and winces.

"I'll brave the masses for you," the woman offers, her hands twitching in her lap. "I just - if I let myself think about it too much, I - " she stops, jaw clenching. "Sorry."

"I take it black, one sugar," Lena tells her.

With a relieved smile, the woman gets to her feet and disappears into the small crowd. Lena watches for a moment more, and then returns her attention to her phone. Her finger hovers over Kara's contact, wanting nothing more than to hear her voice.

Lena locks her phone and tucks it under her thigh. No. It's fine. She doesn't need Kara. She hasn't needed her for almost three months now, and that isn't going to change just because it turns out everything she thought she knew about her biological family probably isn't true.

Lena knows she can apply L-Corp to this and find more answers, now that she knows she's actually been looking in the wrong places. It's more surprising that her own dive into her past didn't bring up any of these other findings, and she makes a mental note to ask Kara - maybe, one day, who knows? - how she stumbled onto this adoption scam.

Lena is actively trying not to think about Kara when the woman returns, a cup of coffee in each hand. She ends up sitting in the chair one over this time, still allowing Lena space but indicating her own comfort at continuing some kind of conversation.

"Black coffee, one sugar," she presents, holding out one of the cups.

"Thank you," Lena tells her, taking the cup in both hands. Then: "You didn't poison this, did you?"

"Uh. No."

"You sure?"

The woman blinks, hazel eyes tinged with confusion. "Positive."

Lena smiles and takes a sip. It's not too hot, and just sweet enough, but the coffee tastes like crap and she's not sure she can keep her distaste off her face.

It gets a laugh out of her companion. "That bad, huh?" she questions, carefully taking her own sip of her coffee and pulling a face Lena's sure mirrors her own. "I didn't even need to poison it. The coffee's doing it all on its own."

Lena shudders. "I always try to tell myself I'm not actually a coffee snob, but maybe I am," she admits. "It tastes like tar."

"I actually think we're the only ones who hate it," she says, glancing around. "Nobody else was complaining, so I'm starting to think that living in Gotham City just kills your taste buds."

Lena raises her eyebrows. "You're not from here, I'm guessing?"

"Nope." She forces herself to take another sip of her coffee. "Originally from Ohio, but I go to school in New Haven."

It's really the first time Lena acknowledges just how young she is. Definitely several years younger than Lena, though there's a maturity in her eyes that Lena suspects has to do with the life she's already lived.

Lena's pretty sure she looked the same when she was her age.

"I'm originally from Metropolis," Lena tells her. "At least, I think I am. Couldn't tell you where I was before I was adopted." She frowns at the thought. "But I live in National City at the moment."

"Not in school?" she asks, a slight grin on her face.

"How old do you think I am?"

"You could be a graduate student," she points out. "There is no age limit on learning new things."

Lena can accept that. "I'm no longer a student, no," she says, choosing not to mention her education history. People tend to get weird when they learn of her academic accomplishments. "I work at a tech company now." It's underselling exactly whom she is, of course, but it isn't common that people don't recognise her as Lena Luthor.

"Do you really?" the woman asks, as if she can tell it's not exactly true, just from the tone of her voice. Which is absurd, of course.

"I do," Lena confirms, because it's not actually a lie. She can't shake the feeling, but she knows this is a person to whom she doesn't want to lie.


Life without a phone is unsettling.

Quinn is a millennial through and through, and her phone is basically an appendage at this point. But she feels both lost and wonderfully free without it. Nobody can contact her, which is great, but it also offers her some time and space from the endless carousel of what it means to be Quinn Fabray, full-time student.

Gotham City isn't a place Quinn has visited before and she actually spends some time taking in the city while she waits for Thursday's group meeting. Quinn spent a few hours on her iPad - the only device that wasn't a casualty of her adoption discovery - and she learned a bit more about the group Agent Hazard mentioned, going incognito and searching offline.

It's nothing official, of course, but there's a Facebook page with several linked chat rooms and forums. It seems the group also has the intention of doing what it can to help reunite families, which might be more than the FBI is doing.

Quinn suspects they haven't been too successful, given everything Agent Hazard said, but it's nice that they're actually trying. It's also nice that there's a space for people like her to go to get help dealing with everything that's been happening.

It's not as if Quinn hasn't gone to therapy before. Her time at Yale has afforded her access to student wellness, and Amy - still just her freshman roommate back then - allowed Quinn to snap at her only twice before she suggested Quinn find someone to talk to about all the emotions she's repressed for so long.

Quinn has honestly learned more about herself than she wanted to know.

The hall hosting the meeting seems larger than necessary when Quinn arrives, but it steadily starts to fill and she begins to feel severely out of place. Or she's exactly where she's meant to be.

Quinn finds a seat at the back of the hall and manages to sit alone and rigid right until the moment the meeting actually starts. A brunette woman settles two seats away from her and Quinn gets momentarily distracted by the slope of her nose.

There's just something about it. Something familiar.

Quinn looks away before she's caught staring and attempts to pay attention when Gina opens the floor.

Ugh. Pickles.

It becomes clear to her from the very beginning that coming here was perhaps a mistake. It doesn't make her feel better knowing there are other people suddenly as lost as she is. It's something she thought she left behind, but she's currently unmoored, bobbing in the water with nothing to tether herself to. It just really sucks that she's almost twenty years old and she feels as out of sorts as she did when she first found out she was pregnant at fifteen.

Quinn realises rather quickly that this is something she's probably not going to recover from without help, and it's a truth she positively hates. She's alone, and she's constantly being reminded of it.

Oh, God, not again.

Quinn can't help her snort when she hears the woman beside her mutter the words, and it's the moment green eyes meet her own, both curious and visibly thrown by what's transpiring in front of them.

Her matching cynicism is comforting to Quinn, and she feels the most normal since Frannie first sent her the article. That stupid, unnecessary article that's inadvertently destroyed her phone and laptop.

It takes nearly half an hour of conversation and two cups of horrific coffee for Quinn to say, "My name is Quinn, by the way."

The woman freezes for a moment, as if she's also just realised they've maintained an entire conversation for as long as they have without introducing themselves. "Lena," she returns, tone careful. "My mother would probably chastise me for my lack of manners."

"Mine would, too," Quinn quips, and then goes still. Her mother. She doesn't even know who her mother is. "Well, my adoptive mother would."

Lena tilts her head slightly, eyes remaining on Quinn. "She's still your mother."

Quinn sighs. "I haven't been able to talk to her," she admits, "even though it's the only thing I want." She shakes her head. "I just want her to tell me it's all some big mistake."

"How long has it been since you found out about all of this?"

Quinn thinks back for a moment. "Four days," she says. "Yeah. Four days."

"You look remarkably fine," she says, which they both know is a lie. Quinn looks atrocious, but pleasant enough not to seem completely out of place in public company. She hasn't been sleeping well, eyes red and bloodshot, and she hasn't spoken a word to her family in just as long.

"That's probably because you're the first person who even knows I'm part of this massive clusterfuck," Quinn tells her. "Who knows about you?"

Lena deflates slightly. "My assistant, and my - " she stops. "My ex-best friend."

Quinn nods, because she understands an ex-friend more than most. "She broke your heart?"

Lena looks at her, mouth opening then closing. Opening again. "You can tell?"

"There's a look we get, I think, when the people we don't expect to hurt us do it in the worst ways," Quinn says. "Maybe it's something I recognise."

"I think that's the worst part," Lena says. "Just how unexpected it was. I can almost handle the lie, but the idea it's come from her just - I haven't managed to handle what that all means for me quite yet."

The first person that comes to mind for Quinn is Rachel, and she really wishes that wasn't the case. They got really close towards the end of their senior year of high school and spent an endless number of days together during the summer that followed.

It's odd.

Quinn always thought she would be the one to drift away and cease contact, but it was Rachel who started slowing her replies and avoiding answering questions Quinn had about her New York life. Quinn learned some things through Santana, but even that relationship felt obligatory and Quinn has too much pride to be chasing people who don't offer her the same courtesy.

She only lingered on Rachel for as long as she did because the brunette didn't give up on her even when Quinn wanted to give up on herself. She felt she owed it to Rachel to keep trying, but Quinn has convinced herself she doesn't actually want to be a masochist.

All Quinn really had to hear about was Rachel was considering getting back together with Finn over Spring Break and it was slightly easier to let go of a relationship that was starting to bring her pain. She's managed to break free from several of those, but now she's about to lose her mother and sister, and what is she gaining in return?

"She's not someone you can talk to about this?" Quinn asks Lena.

Lena seems to consider it. "It's - I haven't been able to look at her and not feel the betrayal," she explains. "It just seems unfair to us both to put us through that, even if I know she'll sit there and listen to me vent about how this is just another way my family is screwing me over."

Normally, Quinn reckons she has the monopoly on a shitty family, but she gets the feeling hers is nothing compared to Lena's. She can't even say her childhood was good before they eventually kicked her out, because it wasn't. She was always in her sister's shadow, learning to hate herself until she practically transformed herself into a younger version of Frannie. And, even then, her father couldn't quite bring himself to love her.

There are times that Quinn views her teenage pregnancy as a blessing - okay, all of the time - and one of the reasons is that it removed Russell from her life. It brought in a lot more complications, of course, but at least she didn't have to suffer under the weight of expectation and disappointment that was an everyday staple of living with her father.

If Frannie is to be believed, it's only Quinn's mother who actually wanted her. But then even she was able to stand and watch as her husband tossed Quinn out for making one mistake.

Quinn clears her throat. "If it makes you feel better, you can vent at me," she offers. "We can try to one-up each other at just how screwed up we are."

Lena looks at her, maybe trying to read her intentions. They're purely selfish, of course, because Quinn hasn't felt this normal all week and she wants to remain in this woman's presence solely to hold onto the feeling that her entire life isn't falling apart.

"You reckon you have me beat?" Lena asks, a slow smirk spreading across her face.

Quinn takes stock of the two of them. "You look a lot more put together than I do," she says, gesturing at her jeans and coat, and then at Lena's ridiculously expensive office getup.

Lena rolls her eyes. "I flew in straight from work this morning," she explains.

"Would you have changed, anyway?"

Lena shakes her head, looking amused. "Probably not," she says. "Even if you obviously have no idea whom I am, I unfortunately do have a reputation that precedes me."

Quinn studies her closely. Maybe that's why her nose is familiar. She must have seen it before, somewhere. "Am I supposed to know?" she asks, genuine. "Is it insulting that I don't?"

"I think you'd be the one insulted if you were aware," Lena says, and she sounds convinced of it.

"You're not a homophobe, are you?" Quinn asks, surprising even herself.

As much as the unexpected question is startling, Lena shakes her head. "Definitely not," she says, firm. "And I really hate that word, you know? It's not a phobia. People aren't scared of us, as if it can be helped. No, they just hate us."

It feels good to have Lena claim it, and Quinn can't help the relief she feels. It's all still a little new to her, but her trip to Europe was really enlightening.

"Well, then you're okay in my books," Quinn tells her.

"You know literally nothing about me."

"I have a feeling about you."

Lena gives her a look of disbelief. "Please don't tell me you're secretly an optimist."

"Ugh. Don't insult me."

Lena laughs. It's this short, unexpected sound, and she looks as surprised by it as Quinn feels. "Was worried there for a second," she says, "because we're getting on so well."

Quinn's smile is soft, just a tilting of her mouth. "We are, aren't we?" she muses, and it's a marvel at all, because Quinn very rarely just manages to click with someone.

Even Amy took some time to warm up to, but Quinn has been in therapy for some time now, so maybe it's actually working. Maybe this entire mess she's found herself in will give her a friend.


Lena doesn't mean to stay.

It was never part of her schedule, but there is something that keeps her in Gotham City, and that something is Quinn.

After the meeting, Quinn somehow manages to squirrel Lena into getting a real coffee with her, and Lena agrees because there's a part of her that needs this interaction almost as much as Quinn does. Neither of them will admit it, and that's just fine.

They talk as if they've known each other for years. Safe topics are school and work, suite mates and colleagues. Family and friends are a major taboo, and Lena is perfectly okay with all of it.

Quinn is kind, snarky and funny in a self-deprecating way. She's cynical in a way that would probably stress out Kara and her sensibilities, which makes Lena like her that bit more. Quinn would definitely get on really well with Alex.

Lena really needs to stop thinking about the Danvers sisters.

Quinn is the one who very seriously says, "My mother had a miscarriage," a little out of the blue. She sips at her second latte since they arrived, voice heavy with all she's revealing. "They didn't want anyone to know she lost the baby, so they rushed to get me through the agency, and just pretended my mother had a private birth."

Lena can see it happening. Can imagine a woman so distraught, and a husband willing to do anything to keep her stable, whether it all be for appearances' sake or just because he wanted to soothe her pain. She can picture all of it, and it is worse that she can understand it.

Quinn looks as if she can make sense of it too, which seems to be the part that hurts her the most.

"They decided they didn't want me anymore," she explains. "When I was fifteen. Something happened. My father - he kicked me out, and I - there was something he said that day that always stuck with me, though I never quite understood why at the time." She pauses, her brow creasing. "He told me, 'You're not my daughter, and you've never been, if you could do this to us.' Now, I guess it all makes sense."

Lena wants to reach out, to comfort and assure her, but she's aware she's not that good at it. The thing is Lena is intimately familiar with the feeling of being unwanted by family, but her family was always too proud to get rid of her the old-fashioned way.

No.

Now they just try to kill her. The normal, modern way, it would seem. Healthier, maybe. Cleaner, except when it's not.

"Your father sounds like an asshole," Lena tells her.

"Oh, he is," Quinn agrees without thought. "Ended up cheating on my mother with some woman my sister's age, and she left him," she explains. "It's when I went back home to live with her. After he was gone."

"You're still bitter about it."

Quinn shrugs. "As much as I've tried, I don't know if that's something a person just gets over."

Lena will have to agree with that. She's just placed all her emotions into little boxes and shoved them into the recesses of her mind. It's why she can appear to look so okay all the time.

Quinn doesn't seem to have done that. She looks composed enough, and she might have been more guarded before all these truths were revealed about her life. It's just that Quinn is very obviously similarly broken, and she doesn't seem to be willing to keep it hidden anymore. She's determined to feel, and Lena is drawn to it, rather than wary of it.

What would Kara have to say about all of this? Goodness, what would Brainy?

So, Lena doesn't intend to stay, not at all, but there's something about Quinn that keeps her in Gotham City. As long as Quinn remains, so does Lena. It's not anything she's willing to explain if anyone were to ask, but Jess doesn't, and neither does Quinn.

Because Thursday turns into Friday, which turns into Saturday, and it's only on Sunday that Quinn says, "I don't think I'm going to learn anything more about myself by staying in Gotham City," and Lena is inclined to agree with her.

It's been an impromptu vacation for her, working intermittently. She's mainly visited restaurants and museums and book stores with Quinn. They also watched three silent films in a row, the two of them not wanting to leave this odd bubble they've found themselves in and not willing to question it.

"I've already missed enough school," Quinn says, fiddling with the handle of her cup as they finish up with their brunch. "I should probably also return to the technological world. Who knows what's burned down during my isolation?"

"I think anything of significance would have reached you somehow," Lena comments, keeping her growing panic quiet. Is this it? Would Quinn even want anything to do with her after this?

Quinn answers her silent question by scribbling her phone number and email address on a page in a little Moleskine notebook she keeps in her jacket pocket. "I should have my phone up and running by the end of the day, so please - just, you know, you can contact me. If you want."

It's actually rather cute watching her ramble a bit, and then turn steely and cool in the next beat. How she manages to be such a dichotomy, Lena will never know.

"I will," Lena assures her, already sad that they're about to part ways. "Quinn?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't know if you actually need to hear this or not, but you're going to be okay," Lena says. "I know things are difficult right now, but I just know you're going to be okay."

Quinn blinks slowly. "How can you be so sure?"

Lena can't, not with any degree of certainty, but she does believe some kind of crisis has been averted just because the two of them happened to meet. "I just am."

It's probably not enough for Quinn, but she still nods. Smiles a little sheepishly. "Your optimism is sickening."

Lena rolls her eyes, but Quinn is right. "I know."


Lena offers Quinn her plane.

The suggestion of a private flight is just wild, and Quinn is quick to deflect the insane generosity. She already has her train ticket booked, but she does accept Lena's offer to accompany her to the station.

"Are you going to be okay?" Lena asks her during the drive, not quite looking at her. "With everything, I mean."

"I don't really have much more of a choice but to be," Quinn tells her. "I've survived worse than this."

Lena nods slowly, as if she understands. Quinn suspects she does. There's no space for them not to be okay; too much expected, and yet nothing at all. "This isn't going to be some weird goodbye, okay," Lena says. "I'll call, and you'll call, and you're going to figure out what to do about your family, and I'm going to get us some answers."

"You sound so certain," Quinn points out, slightly envious of her belief. "I thought we weren't optimists."

"We're not," Lena says with a light laugh. "I'm just stating facts. I'm a scientist. I deal in facts."

Quinn has learned quite a bit about Lena in the past few days, and she's definitely not just some 'scientist.' Quinn has heard a little about the Luthor family over the years, but it doesn't really matter to her. Lena hasn't learned about Quinn's horrid past behaviour, but she gets the feeling Lena won't judge her for it. That's something they can do for each other.

"Have a safe trip, okay," Lena tells her when they arrive at the station, the two of them sitting in the backseat of the car while Lena's driver fetches Quinn's luggage from the trunk. "It's probably best I not go in with you."

Quinn grins. "Because you're famous," she teases.

"Infamous," Lena automatically corrects, rolling her eyes.

Quinn shrugs. "We all have our beliefs."

Lena shakes her head. "You'll be okay," she says again, as if willing the Universe to listen.

"So will you," Quinn returns, and it's going to take more work to get either of them to believe the other. Well, Quinn won't give up if Lena won't.

Lena just hums.

Quinn checks the time on her watch, sighing. "I should get going," she says. "Still have to put my life back together once I arrive."

"Don't expect it to happen in one day," Lena gently warns. "Something big has happened."

"I'm aware."

Lena smiles at her. "Okay."

"Okay."

They stare at each other for a moment, Quinn wondering if there's something more she should be saying. In the end, she just shakes her head, murmurs a farewell, and then gets out of the car. It's weird, already feeling this connected to a person she met mere days ago, but Quinn is trying not to read too much into it.

She just gives Lena one last wave, and then disappears into the terminal building. Finds her platform and boards the train with little fanfare, already making mental lists of what she has to get done once she's safely in her bedroom.

It's a lot.

It ends up being more than that, in the end.

Because it's when Quinn manages to get her new phone set up and connected to her network that her world tilts once more. It flips over, knocking her right off her feet when she hasn't quite been able to get back up yet.

Because Quinn activates her phone and is immediately bombarded with the very real news that Finn Hudson has died and been buried during the week Quinn has been unreachable.

It's -

She can hardly believe it.

She refuses to believe it because, frankly, there's only so much Quinn's psyche can handle at the moment and she doesn't see how she's supposed to survive the next few days and weeks with the knowledge that -

No.

None of it is happening.

Except that there are messages aplenty, first informative, and then accusatory. Questioning, and then hateful. People she hasn't spoken a word to in months calling her heartless and selfish and questioning her integrity. Making assumptions that it was a choice she made not to be in attendance at the funeral or memorial or -

Quinn carefully switches off her phone once more, crawls into bed, and desperately tries not to think about the very real truth that every part of her life has fallen apart.

Tries not to accept that Lena was wrong.


It feels as if nothing and everything has changed.

Lena returns to National City and slides back into her life as if she never even left for those few days in Gotham City. The only visible difference, she thinks, is that her anger at Kara has shifted to something of a mixture of apathy and irritation.

What's worse is that Lena's annoyance is mainly owed to Quinn's. That stupid article, while worthy, has really created a great big mess. Now that Lena is aware, the initial buzz has already died down, but Lena can't escape it.

Now that this truth has entered her life, she just can't ignore it. Not that she really wants to, given what's on offer. She now has the opportunity to learn more about her biological family. Things nobody bothered to tell her before.

Jess asks her about it only once, but Lena doesn't have much more to tell her other than that she knows both more and less than she did before she left for Gotham City. It's almost as if it's not happening, but she knows it is, because she has Quinn's contact in her phone and she didn't imagine herself putting it there.

In the days that follow her return, Lena creates an entirely new private project for herself, gathering all the information she's now able to find based on the fact her origins are not what she initially thought.

She adds herself to the list, of course, and pauses. Thinks about it for barely a second, and then adds Quinn's name right below her own.

Obviously, she'll have to learn more about Quinn to be able to get any answers, and that's what Lena tells herself when she makes the decision to message her for the first time. It's really just to help Quinn and nothing to do with Lena's inexplicable curiosity about the blonde.

Quinn did tell her to contact her whenever she wanted to, so Lena's just taking her up on her offer. She debates over a suitable initial text for almost four hours before she sends a simple greeting, making sure Quinn knows it's from Lena, and asking how she's doing.

Quinn mentioned getting a new phone, so Lena almost expects a prompt response, and she won't admit to being disappointed when she doesn't. It's okay. She'll wait.

But then one day passes, two, and then three.

It's after her thirteenth message has gone unanswered that Lena really worries about Quinn. There was something slightly unhinged about her - something so close to snapping - and Lena finds it easier to focus on someone else than herself.

Lena places three calls that ring to Quinn's voicemail, and then hacks into the Yale student database to locate Quinn, all while getting Jess to ready the jet for a trip to New Haven.

It's impulsive, she knows, and possibly a massive overreaction, but she can't quite bring herself to talk herself out of it. She wants to go, so she's going to go. If seeing Quinn is part of it, then so be it.

Lena could also talk herself in and out of her reasons for making this trip, but there's a very real part of her that's actually worried about Quinn - who is essentially a stranger. Except she's not. They spent four days together, just existing, and Lena knows something was forged between them that she won't be able to explain.

So Lena boards her plane without explaining herself to Jess, and finds herself on Yale's campus in front of Bingham Hall in short order. What Lena knows is Quinn is living in a suite with two other girls, sharing a bathroom, a kitchenette and a small living space. What she also knows is Quinn hasn't been in class for some days now, so she should be behind her suite door when Lena finally finds herself standing in front of it.

Lena breathes deeply, suddenly wary of what she might find. She's not sure how to explain herself if Quinn is actually just fine - or actually angered that Lena just showed up.

Still, she knocks on the door and waits. It takes a few seconds for the door to open, and Lena is met with someone who isn't Quinn.

Someone who gives her a curious look and says, "Can I help you?"

"I'm looking for Quinn," Lena says, eyeing the redhead in front of her with a critical eye of her own. She can be polite, but she's also fully prepared to bulldoze through anyone who might try to send her astray.

"You here to drag her out of bed?" the girl asks. "She's been a nightmare to be around ever since she got back."

"I'm definitely going to try," Lena offers, frowning slightly. From the way she left Quinn, she didn't expect her still to be caught up in all of this. She seemed more settled when they parted - as in just not in the frame of mind to hide away.

Something else must have happened.

"That's her room," the girl says, pointing somewhere behind her. "And I'm Amy, by the way. In case you need anything."

"Thank you," Lena says, entering the suite and moving towards what Amy indicated was Quinn's door. She knocks once, waits only a moment, and then opens the door and walks into a disaster.

The room is a mess, stale and musty and unpleasant, and the human-shaped ball in the bed looks even worse. From what little Lena can see, Quinn has thinned out just in the past few days. Her hair is a mess, her clothing probably unlaundered and she definitely needs a good shower.

Lena steels herself and walks further into the room. It takes a while for Quinn to register her arrival and, even then, all her reaction consists of is the slight widening of her eyes.

Lena gingerly settles herself on the edge of Quinn's bed. "If you needed me to come to New Haven, all you had to do is ask."

Quinn tucks her head into her pillow and groans. "What are you doing here?" she mumbles into the fabric.

"You weren't answering your phone," Lena says, as if that should be explanation enough. "I got worried."

Quinn remains still, though her body loses some of its tension. "You're insane."

Lena shrugs. She's been called worse. "And I was right to be worried," she says. "Look at you."

Quinn hides away even further. "My life is falling apart."

"I thought we talked about this."

Quinn suddenly sits up, startling Lena enough that she almost falls off the bed. "Lena, honestly, what are you doing here?" she asks, throat scratchy. "How did you even find me?"

Lena settles once more, hand reaching out to steady herself against Quinn's leg. "I run a multi-billion dollar tech company," she says offhandedly. "Though, the fact your first name is actually not Quinn did throw me for a bit of a loop during my search."

Quinn scrubs a hand over her face. "Lena."

"Quinn."

She leans back against her pillows. "My life is falling apart," she says again, puffing out a breath.

Lena looks around the room. "It looks it," she comments. "When's the last time you left your room?"

"My room, or the suite?"

"When's the last time you went outside?"

Quinn rests her head against the wall behind her. "Monday."

Lena's eyes widen. "I saw you on Sunday."

Quinn eyes her critically. "Have you ever been called heartless?"

"Countless times."

"And it doesn't affect you?"

Lena looks at her hand that's still resting on Quinn's covered leg. It's comforting, just being able to feel her warmth. "Sometimes," she admits. "But those people don't know me."

"But what if they do?" Quinn asks. "What if the people who are supposed to know you are the ones calling you that?"

Lena thinks of Kara, and of Alex and Brainy. She's not heartless, she knows, but she's very carefully kept parts of herself hidden away enough that she might give people the impression of that.

"Do you think you're heartless, Quinn?"

Quinn looks to the ceiling. "My ex-boyfriend died," she says, voice steady. "Last week. They buried him on the weekend. I didn't find out about it until I got back, and I haven't been able to move since."

Lena doesn't speak. Can't offer assurances and platitudes and all the things Quinn might need to be able to get through this. Because all she can think about is Jack Jack Jack.

Of all the things she's been through, that was one of the hardest. Losing him so permanently, and now knowing that Kara is Supergirl, and having made that choice without that knowledge, but -

"I called his mother," Quinn says, cutting into Lena's thoughts. "As soon as I was able to, I called her. I needed to - she had to hear from me why I wasn't able to be there."

"Of course."

"I didn't - it's not as if I didn't want to be there," Quinn says. "I was just having my own crisis, and I didn't know. I didn't know, Lena. How could I have known?"

"You couldn't."

"But they don't care about that," Quinn says, more to herself. "They haven't even asked me. They just - after not bothering to talk to me for months, they assume they know me and what's happening in my life, and I don't even care about all of that, except that - "

"You do."

Quinn sighs. "I do." There's more there; more she could say to explain just why it all bothers her as much as it does, but she doesn't.

Lena could ask, but she rather says, "I'm sorry about your ex-boyfriend."

Quinn looks at her then, this helpless, hopeless look on her face, and Lena's heart lurches in her chest. Aches in a way that's foreign to her. Almost as if she wants to absorb Quinn's pain, and it's nothing she understands.

Lena leans forward, whispers, "Have you cried yet?"

Quinn shakes her head. "I'm afraid I won't stop," she admits, voice just as low. Like a confession.

Lena gets to her feet, turns her body, and sits beside Quinn. It's a little awkward as she wraps an arm around her shoulders - unwittingly mirroring Kara - and sighs a little when Quinn leans into her. "It's okay," she says. "You can cry. I'll make sure you're able to stop."

Quinn doesn't make a sound for a long minute, and Lena worries that she hasn't quite given into it yet. But then she peeks at Quinn's face and sees the tears on her cheeks.

Oh.

It seems Quinn has learned how to cry in silence as well.


Quinn must fall asleep, because the next thing she knows she's waking to the sound of a door closing. She's disorientated, head pounding and mouth full of cotton, but she's awake, and she wishes she wasn't.

It doesn't take very long for her to realise she's not going to be able to fall asleep again. But she's still exhausted. Ugh. With a heavy sigh, she blinks against the light, and then rolls over when the door opens again.

Lena is there.

Quinn didn't imagine her.

"You're awake," Lena observes, a takeout bag in her one hand and a bottle of water in the other. "How bad is your headache?"

"I feel like I've been hit by a truck," Quinn tells her, and then winces at the sound of her own words. She knows exactly what that feels like, and it's nothing like she feels right now.

Lena raises her eyebrows at Quinn's reaction, but she doesn't question her. Rather just moves towards her and settles on the edge of the bed. "I got you some food," she says. "Big Belly Burger always manages to make me feel slightly better. Don't worry, I asked Amy what your go-to meal was, though telling me to get anything with bacon in it wasn't very helpful."

Quinn just stares at her, still trying to make sense of what's happening.

"I also cleaned up a little in here, though you're going to have to get up out of that bed so we can change your sheets."

"Lena, I don't - "

"Perhaps a shower," Lena interrupts. "But eat first. You look a bit like a skeleton and, contrary to public opinion, that isn't really the definition of beauty - or healthy."

Quinn takes a deep breath, and then does exactly as Lena instructs. It's actually nice being told what to do, allowing her brain to take a bit of a breather and not have to think for itself.

It takes an hour, but Quinn ends up fed, clean and slightly rejuvenated as she watches Lena clean up her space as if she's incapable of such. Maybe she is; who knows?

"Seriously, though, what are you doing here?" Quinn asks around a French fry.

Lena isn't actually looking at her when she says, "I was worried," once more. It just doesn't make sense to Quinn, you see, because she's just met this woman, and now said woman is flying to New Haven to check on her.

What even.

Lena's sitting at Quinn's desk, messing with her fixed laptop, and Quinn would be more alarmed by it if she weren't so exhausted. The laptop's got a crack in the bottom left corner of the screen, but it still works perfectly fine and Quinn is relieved by at least that.

"What are you doing?" Quinn eventually asks.

"Deleting these horrific messages and deactivating your social media," Lena explains. "Goodness. Who are these people?"

"I was an awful teenager."

"Aren't you still a teenager?"

Quinn shrugs. "I'm pretty sure I still deserve it."

"And these people are meant to be your friends?" Lena asks, but her voice doesn't sound incredulous. In fact, she sounds resigned, as if she has experience with supposed friends being able to turn on you.

"I mean, not really," Quinn says, drinking from her water bottle. "I haven't seen most of them since Valentine's Day, and I haven't really spoken to any of them since then. Before that, I hadn't even seen anyone since my mother moved out of our hometown in December."

Lena finally looks over at her. "And your ex?"

Quinn's gaze drops to the floor. "Same," she murmurs. "We - a bunch of us went home for our one teacher's wedding in February, and there was - he and I didn't really get on near the end there, but we were civil enough."

"Bad breakup?"

Quinn's snorts, dark and ugly to her own ears. "Bad relationship." There was so much wrong with their coupling, both times, and their problems were more than enough before Rachel was even brought into the equation. "But it's not like I actually wanted him dead," she says, voice a little high. "I don't - I don't know what I could have ever done in my life to make people actually think that about me."

"People will think what they want to about you, Quinn," Lena says. "I know countless people have many opinions about me, mostly based on my family, and I've had to learn the hard way that those opinions have no bearing on how I see myself."

"And how do you see yourself?"

Lena turns her attention back to the laptop. "My best friend lied to my face from the moment we met, so why don't you tell me?"

Quinn straightens where she's perched on her bed, eyes taking in the set of Lena's shoulders. "I won't lie to you," she says, surprising even herself with the words.

"Quinn, don't."

"I won't," she declares, firm. Then, because it all feels very heavy, all of a sudden, she adds, "But, if ever I do, I'll make sure you know it."


There is another letter waiting for Lena when she returns to National City. It's precarious as it remains perched on the edge of Jess' desk, and all Lena can think about is that the last one might have actually altered her entire existence.

She's not ready for it to happen again.

Jess doesn't say anything about the letter, which is expected. She just makes sure it remains in its position every morning and every evening, silently baiting Lena into reading it.

Lena doesn't.

Instead, she focuses on work and Quinn and her secret projects. If ever she allows herself to think of Kara, it's when she's home alone, probably had a little too much to drink and is feeling nostalgic. There's still so much she needs to unpack about their entire relationship, but she's existed in this oblivious limbo for so long that she's not inclined to do the work to get out of it.

At least not until Quinn inadvertently forces her to. It's a simple question about how Lena spends her evenings, and Lena makes the mistake of mentioning she used to have regular Movie Nights with Kara.

Quinn is quiet for a moment, just the crackling of the phone's connection to be heard. "Kara?"

Lena closes her eyes, leaning back in her chair and listening to the sound of Quinn's breathing through her phone's speaker. "My best friend," she finally says.

"The one who broke your heart."

Lena sighs. "It makes her sound so important."

"It's not a bad thing that she was, or even still is," Quinn tells her. "We're allowed to have important people, Lena."

"Is that what you're telling yourself?"

"It is," Quinn confirms, "Or I can assure you we wouldn't still be talking to each other."

"Is that a you, or a me, problem?"

"We're both pretty messed up, so it's really a tossup at this point."

Lena can't help her laugh, continually grateful for Quinn's growing presence in her life. "I just hate that I gave her all this power, and then she used it to hurt me," she reveals.

"Got your soft underbelly, did she?"

"I'm convinced I didn't see it coming," Lena says. "I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to her."

"Because she wasn't just your best friend, was she?"

Lena won't answer that question. Not even in her own head. No thank you. "What about your best friend?" she deflects.

Quinn hums. "Well, if you must know, I actually did sleep with my best friend."

Lena's eyes snap open. "What?"

"It was earlier this year," Quinn explains. "A one night of debauchery kind of thing. We were both nursing the unrequited kind of heartbreak. I don't know if I regret it. We were already drifting apart before that, but it was also an eye-opening experience for me."

"Quinn?"

"Hmm."

"I know you haven't explicitly said anything about anything, but I would be remiss not to tell you that I am an open-minded, accepting person."

Quinn doesn't say anything for a long time, and Lena has to check to make sure the call is still connected. "Lena?"

"Yes?"

"Ditto."

Lena smiles to herself, alone in her office. "So, this best friend of yours?"

"Total bitch," Quinn mutters. "Yours?"

"Practically a puppy."

"Oh, you must have loved that," Quinn comments. "Is this one of those 'opposites attract' thing?"

"Pretty much."

"You can tell me about her if you want," Quinn offers. "I've been staring at the same page for an hour, and I just - I don't know how else to help you the way you've been helping me."

"Are you still off social media?" Lena asks, bypassing the opportunity to talk about Kara. "Any other contact?"

"No, it's pretty quiet on my end, especially now that I have a new number," she says. "My professors have been really sympathetic with everything going on, and it definitely didn't hurt having Lena Luthor sending a few emails on my behalf."

"Let the name be good for something."

"You do that all by yourself," Quinn says, easy as breathing. It means more coming from other people, more believable. "I actually read the proposal you published on building wind farms in Nebraska. Interesting stuff."

"Are you messing with me, dear?"

"I would never." She laughs. "But I did read it. Maintenance sounds like it would be a real pain, though."

"I'm very rich, Quinn."

"I'm very rich, Quinn," Quinn mocks, and it always catches Lena off guard when Quinn acts this way. As if she's comfortable to be the younger person; comfortable enough to tease and joke. "If you're so rich, why do you even care about the environment?"

"Is that a question you wish to ask someone else?"

"I just haven't seen a billionaire who seems to care about the world the way you do," Quinn points out. "Don't get weird about it, but I've been reading up on you and the work you're doing."

"Why?"

"Don't get weird."

"Quinn?"

"We have an assignment in my Women Studies class, and we're supposed to write about a woman who has been perceived a certain way, but is actually something else."

"And you picked me?"

Quinn doesn't respond. Just clears her throat and says, "You donate more money than any other billionaire on the planet." She pauses. "And you don't seem interested in going to space."

Lena definitely doesn't mention that she's already been, and it wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. Maybe she'll consider a return some day. With Kara.

Well.

No.

"Space is space," Lena tells her. "It'll always be there."

"And the Earth won't?"

"Not with the way we're consuming its resources," Lena says. Then: "Is this some kind of interview?"

"No," Quinn's quick to say. "I just - it still baffles me that you're this legitimate tech mogul, and you somehow still want to hang out with little old me."

"I'm not some tech mogul."

"You kind of are."

"Not really."

"You literally have L-Phones, Lena," Quinn says. "You're like Tony Stark, post the first Iron Man film."

"You're ridiculous."

Quinn laughs, tender and real. "I also know what I'm talking about, you know? I'm writing about it, which makes me right."

"It is so easy to tell you're a little sister," Lena says. "You've got the annoyance down to an art." It's always a risk to bring up anything related to family, but it's not something from which they allow each other to hide.

"I have had nineteen years to perfect it," Quinn says, just taking it in stride. "Figure I should flex it once in a while."

"And you've chosen me?" Her voice remains light, but Quinn isn't having any of it. She does this sometimes, makes things serious just by her tone.

"Well, Lena," she says, "it seems you've chosen me, too."

They've chosen each other.

"So, tell me about this paper you're writing," Lena finally says, deflecting. "Should I be expecting a list of questions from you?"

"Hah," Quinn says, "Don't flatter yourself."

"Because you do it enough for me, do you?"

"I told you not to be weird about it," Quinn grumbles. "I wouldn't have told you, otherwise."

Lena can't help being amused. "There you go with your little sister tendencies."

Quinn takes a purposeful breath before she says, "Tell me about Kara."

Lena sighs, glancing at the time. It's later in New Haven, and she has half a mind to send Quinn to bed. She doesn't. "You said you know how it feels to be blindsided by the one person you didn't expect to hurt you."

Quinn clears her throat, and Lena can hear her moving around her bedroom. "I did say that," she says. "But I also know that I hurt her a lot more than she ever hurt me in the past, so maybe I deserve it, right?"

"Quinn, you know that's not how that works, right?"

"Do you think you deserve your pain?"

"I'm a Luthor."

"Not an answer to my question," Quinn counters. "Do you think you deserve it? You. As yourself."

Lena closes her eyes again, staving off a headache. She really should go home, and Quinn really should try to get some sleep. "Who hurt you?"

Quinn sighs. "You're almost as stubborn as I am," she murmurs. "Is this one of those, I go first, and then you'll go."

"Maybe."

"You're used to getting what you want, hmm?"

"Not recently."

Quinn shifts on her end again, moving around and making Lena feel as if they're actually in the same place. "It's very complicated."

Lena can believe that, but she also knows her situation is possibly more complicated. Not that she's comparing them or anything; it's just that her situation is very unique.

But then Quinn says, "you know my ex-boyfriend?"

Lena hums a yes, careful with her tone because Quinn hasn't brought him up herself since Lena's first visit.

"I'm pretty sure I've had a crush on his girlfriend since I was fifteen years old." She breathes out. "And I'm convinced they both knew."

Chapter Text

iii. maybe i don't quite know what to say, but I'm here in your doorway

If Quinn is going to be honest, it's surprising that she shows up at all. For a moment there, Quinn almost had herself convinced she would go her whole life without seeing Rachel Berry again.

But then she opens her suite door at the sound of an insistent knock, and there she is. Like some kind of apparition, looking unreal and out of place in a dim Yale corridor.

Quinn stands, frozen, taking in the girl she hasn't seen in some months now. Rachel looks different, tired and a little haggard. Her eyes are bloodshot, as if she's been crying, but Quinn isn't conceited enough to wonder if the tears are for her.

Quinn doesn't move out of the doorway; doesn't invite her inside. She's taken steps to protect herself, and one of those ways is maintaining distance between herself and Rachel.

Quinn sighs. "Rachel," she says. "What are you doing here?"

Rachel is trembling right in front of her, and it's taking everything Quinn has not to pull her into a hug and make it all better. She can't. She's convinced it won't help. "I needed to see you," Rachel finally says, and Quinn almost managed to forget the sound of her voice. "I was just sitting at home, and I had this desire to lay eyes on you, so I just grabbed my things and boarded the train, and now I'm here. I know it's unexpected, out of the blue and definitely impulsive, but I wasn't thinking about that. I just kind of snapped and now I'm here and you're - "

"I'm what?"

"You're fine." Rachel fidgets with the end of her scarf. "You're just fine," she repeats, and it comes out as an accusation now. "I had no idea what I would find or what I would do when I got here, but I couldn't stay in New York when - "

"When what?"

Rachel looks away for only a moment, before her chestnut eyes are back on Quinn. "I thought I might yell when I saw you," she says. "Ask all the questions I've been meaning to ask the past few weeks. Demand to know why you haven't responded to any of my emails." She pauses. "Finally get an explanation for why you weren't at Finn's funeral."

Quinn forces herself not to react to the words. She's already spent weeks coming to terms with the truth she wasn't there to bid him farewell, and she's made peace with the role she played in his short life. The only person who was owed anything from her was Carole. Nobody else.

"I am so angry with you," Rachel says, and Quinn can hear it along with her anguish and undisguised hurt. They're visibly simmering below the surface. Just waiting to be released.

Though, Rachel's anger isn't Quinn's concern, and she knows she might deserve it, but it's not as if Rachel has any right to show up here out of the blue and look at her as if Quinn is the one who owes her an explanation for the state of their relationship.

"I know it's been so long since we saw each other, and I know it's mostly my fault, but you didn't even come back to Lima over the summer," Rachel says, and Quinn really needs her to stop speaking. "I know I lost my way last year, and I know how much you tried, but I just - I couldn't handle the thought of you seeing me fail, when you've always been the one who's believed in me the most." She looks so impossibly sad that Quinn wants nothing more than to hug her.

She doesn't move.

"I know, Quinn," Rachel says. "I know all of these things, and I just - " she lets out a sob, "I don't know how what I've done could have been enough to keep you from coming to Finn's funeral."

And it's maybe that last sentence that forces a reaction from Quinn, because -

What the hell?

What the actual freaking hell?

"Excuse me?"

Rachel must hear the dangerous edge in her voice, because she just keeps speaking. Rambling in a way Quinn once found irritating, and then adorable, but now it's just heartbreaking.

"It's just that I missed you, and you've deactivated all your social media and nobody's heard from you in weeks, and I know my anger's probably misplaced, but I just expected you to be there." She pauses. "If not for me, then for Finn." Then she says, "But you weren't, and I don't know how I could forgive you for such a thing."

Quinn clenches her jaw hard enough to hurt. For a second, she almost believed Rachel might have actually come to Yale for her, but she's come for herself, and Quinn isn't going to make the mistake of thinking anything different.

"Well, good, then," Quinn says. "I don't need your fucking forgiveness, anyway." And then she slams the door.

Her heart is pounding, her breath stuck in her throat. The last thing she expected today was to have Rachel Berry show up at her door and try to alleviate her own guilt by assuming Quinn had a choice in not making it to Finn's funeral. She would have been there. Of course she would have been there.

If her own world hadn't taken its own cliff-dive.

Quinn turns away from the door, probably taking it for granted that Rachel will leave, and searches for her phone. Lena will know what to do. Amy will know. Literally anyone but herself.

There's another knock at the door, and then Rachel's voice is coming through the wood. Quinn knows she's not going to be able to get rid of Rachel herself - she can be stubborn and persistent - and she's probably going to have to enlist Amy's help.

Or, based on the text she receives from Jenna down the hall when Rachel's voice gets louder, she'll need campus security. It's really only a matter of time before she garners enough attention for other students to file complaints.

It's just -

It's not fair that Rachel gets to do this to her. Quinn was fine. She was getting by, settling into school and navigating the world where her high school friends think her heartless and she shares no actual blood with her family. She was fucking fine.

And now -

Rachel doesn't get to do this to her, and her audacity spikes Quinn's anger with every syllable that leaves the brunette's mouth through the door.

"Quinn," Rachel calls out. "Quinn, open the door," she says. "I need to know why you haven't called or explained or even sympathised. I deserve to know - "

That's it.

Quinn yanks open the door and tugs her into the room, not caring that she stumbles over the threshold as the door slams behind her. "Are you trying to get campus security here?" she snaps, suddenly seething. "And you deserve nothing from me."

Once she's righted herself, Rachel stares at her, and then glares. "You've essentially cut everyone off, and I know there's a reason," she demands. "You have never done anything without having a reason, and I deserve to know what it is."

"Unbelievable," Quinn mutters, voice tense. It'd be so easy to lash out right now, and it takes everything Quinn has not to.

She's over it.

She's moved on from all of this.

Still.

She's Quinn Fabray and she's probably been gearing up for this fight since Kurt sent her a Facebook message about how he always knew she didn't care about anyone but herself.

No.

She's been waiting for this since the last time her own messages went unanswered by Rachel.

"And you're just self-absorbed enough to think that reason is to do with you, aren't you," Quinn spits back, and she knows this is all such a terrible idea. She should have just left campus security to drag Rachel away and dealt with the consequences of it later.

Rachel shouldn't get to do this to her.

"Then tell me why," Rachel pleads, and her voice cracks. "You have to have a reason. You wouldn't - you wouldn't just not come, and I need you to tell me it's not my fault."

Quinn is so baffled by her words that she actually does a double-take. The look in Rachel's eyes gives away her meaning, both of them remembering the one moment Rachel is purposefully not mentioning, and has never. The actual nerve of her.

"Fine!" she yells, her own anger spiking. "It's not your fucking fault, okay? Is that what you need to hear? Well, there you go, okay? Now you can leave. Your conscience is clean, so now you can just keep doing what you've been doing and leave me alone."

Rachel stares at Quinn, and Quinn stares right back.

It's as if time has frozen, the two of them existing in this infinite stretch of time where they don't even recognise each other.

"What happened to us?" Rachel eventually asks, as if she doesn't know. As if she's not responsible.

"Don't pretend you don't know," Quinn says. "You came here, got what you wanted, so now you can leave."

"But - "

"Just leave me alone," Quinn snaps. "God. This is literally the first time you've even been here, and it's for this. What more do you want from me?"

"Why weren't you there?"

"What does it matter?" Quinn counters. "The lot of you already think the worst of me."

"Quinn."

"No," she says. "This isn't a thing you need to do, okay? You can all just get on with your lives and I'll get on with mine."

"Quinn."

"No," she says again. "Just go back to New York and live your life and I'll just - "

"Shut up," Rachel snaps. "Stop talking. Just stop."

Quinn glares at her. "What do you want?" she asks. "Why are you even here?"

"I don't know."

"It is not my responsibility to make you feel better."

"Why weren't you there?" she demands, as if the only thing she needs to hear is that she's not the reason Quinn stayed away.

"When did you even notice?" Quinn counters, unable to give her what she wants.

"What?"

Quinn steps forward, voice low. "At what point did you notice I wasn't even there?" she asks. "When did you even start caring? Was it when the rest of our friends starting talking shit about me? Or did you actually miss me?"

"Quinn, stop."

"Why are you here?"

"I wanted to see you," Rachel tells her. "I missed you."

It's a surprise to them both when Quinn turns away and storms into her bedroom. She's raging, definitely, but she's also aching. Every part of her hurts, because it's so good to see Rachel, but she's only here to assuage her own guilt and Quinn didn't actually think herself capable of hating her until this moment.

Rachel follows her into the bedroom and closes the door. "Tell me what happened."

Quinn rounds on her. "You do not get to come here and demand things of me," she hisses. "You lost the right to anything from me when you decided I wasn't worth any more of your time and attention."

And, what's worse is that Rachel looks positively stumped by those words. As if it's never crossed her mind that Quinn could have possibly been hurt by the fact Rachel pulled away from her. Which is even sadder, as it's because Rachel doesn't view herself as someone Quinn would miss.

And Quinn has.

Dear God, she's missed Rachel Berry with every fibre of her being, and now she's standing right in front of her, but Quinn has never felt so far away.

"Quinn," Rachel says, stepping closer.

Quinn steps back. "Don't," she says. "Please just don't. Why are you here? What do you want?"

"I wanted to see you," she says, not for the first time, but Quinn just doesn't believe her. She can't.

"No, you didn't," Quinn counters. "You haven't wanted to see me for months." And Quinn knows it. Not since before their Spring Break of their freshman year, when Quinn mentioned visiting New York five times before she just stopped.

The one time she did visit was to stage an intervention to stop Rachel going topless in a student film and to clear things up with Santana about their brief dalliance at Mr Schuester's would-be wedding.

It was the last time she saw either of them, the visit not quite a pleasant memory, and their communication fell to the wayside when Quinn just stopped trying. It's been almost seven months since then.

The way Quinn feels, she's an entirely different person to the one she was back then, and it has very little to do with the fact she was stolen from her real family and adopted into one that never quite fit right.

"Quinn," Rachel says, and she's standing too close, too close. "You know that's not true."

"Stop it." She's pressed against her desk, trying to maintain distance between them. "You shouldn't be here."

The way Rachel looks at her now is terrifying. Like she knows. Like she's really had it all figured out from the very beginning. "I'm here," she says.

"Why couldn't you just leave me alone?" Quinn murmurs. "You were doing it so well."

This moment is familiar, in that they've been in a similar position before. Quinn hasn't told anyone about it, because she's convinced she actually imagined it. Rachel acted as if it never happened after, and Quinn just followed her lead. It's not something she allows herself to think about too often, because it's dangerous to recall the feel of Rachel's lips against her own - however brief it was.

It happened only once, in Rachel's bedroom, during Quinn's one and only visit to New York. Rachel cornered Quinn to ask about what Santana meant when she said she knew Quinn far better than Rachel ever could, and the truth ended up coming out right alongside Quinn.

Then, to their collective surprise, Rachel kissed her, soft and firm, immediately panicked about it, mentioned something about Finn, and promptly pretended it didn't happen.

Quinn returned to New Haven and rapidly lost one of the most important relationships in her life. It's what makes this moment familiar, but also Quinn's worst nightmare - and deepest desire.

It's something out of a dream, what happens next. Quinn is just standing there, asking for answers but not wanting to hear them, and then she's being kissed. On the mouth. By Rachel.

Quinn's brain shuts down for a precious moment, but then it comes back online and she pulls away, ignoring the tingle on her lips and her desperate need for more more more.

"What are you doing?" she asks, a little breathless and a lot confused.

Rachel reclaims the space, breath warm against Quinn's skin, fingers already digging into her skin. "I don't know," she says. "I just - can we talk about it later?"

It's a terrible idea.

Quinn knows it's a terrible idea, but Rachel is here and Quinn has missed her.

She was fine.

When Rachel kisses her again, Quinn lets her.


Lena wakes to three missed calls from Quinn, two texts that aren't at all coherent and a garbled voicemail from her. None of it makes sense, but Lena knows something significant has happened.

Lena calls Jess first, cancelling her morning appointments and getting the jet ready. Then she calls Quinn, who answers immediately and says, "Sorry, I'm okay, I was just having a moment."

Lena leans against her kitchen island, surprised by how fast her heart is beating. The idea of anything being wrong with Quinn hurts her, and it's still not something she's wrapped her head around. "What happened?" she asks anyway, because something must have happened.

"Nothing," she says, which is an obvious lie, and they both know it.

Lena sighs, absently rubbing her right eye of sleep. "Quinn, dear, you're a lousy liar."

"Am not."

"Now you're just showing your age, dear," she returns. "Just talk to me. You know I'll never judge you."

Quinn is quiet for long, long seconds. "I fell asleep."

Lena waits, patient.

"I fell asleep," Quinn repeats. "After." She pauses. "When I woke up again, she was gone."

Lena closes her eyes. "She?"

Quinn doesn't immediately respond, which is an answer enough.

"Are you okay?" Lena asks. "Truly, are you okay? Do I need to come there?"

"What?"

"I can be on the plane within the hour," Lena offers. "We could have brunch and you can tell me about that paper your professor thinks you should submit to that writing competition."

"Lena, you don't have to do that," Quinn starts.

Lena's eyes open and she takes in her empty, cold kitchen, where everything is sleek and clean and out of sight. She could use a visit to Quinn right about now. It's more of a selfish offer.

"I should be in New Haven by eleven," Lena tells her, and she ends up overshooting by an entire half an hour. Quinn gets out of class at quarter to the hour, and Lena waits for her in the quad opposite her lecture theatre.

She's checking her emails and instructing Jess to get her the plans on Project 389 when Quinn appears right in front of her. Her smile is small but present, and Lena has the inexplicable urge to hug her.

Instead, she says, "You look better than I was expecting."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "It's nice to see you too, Lena," she says. "I've got another class at noon, and I'm starving. I'm pretty sure you promised me brunch."

"Are you about to call yourself a struggling student?"

"I am both struggling and a student," Quinn says with a wink. "There's a pretty neat place a couple of blocks away. You keen for a walk?"

"Are you going to tell me what had you freaking out last night?"

Quinn just starts walking, Lena following. They get nearly five metres before Quinn says, "I think she's ruined me."

And, dear God, that's definitely something Lena can understand. Kara has ruined her in ways she's sure none of them even knows yet. "Who are we talking about?" Lena asks, even though she's sure she already knows.

Quinn stuffs her hands into the pockets of her coat. "I'm gay," she says after a moment. "I didn't really know for sure that I was until a few months ago, but I guess it makes sense why I've been so hung up on a friendship that essentially faded to nothing."

Lena ignores the parallels to her own life.

She's here to help Quinn.

"Rachel showed up last night," Quinn says. "Completely out of the blue. Just pitched up and started yelling and demanding things, and I just - it hurts that the only reason she would even come here was because she was angry or guilty or just feeling things she selfishly wanted me to help her alleviate."

Lena can guess what happened. It's probably one of the reasons she's made sure to push Kara as far away from her as possible. Because she has a knack for getting too close, and Lena is still too raw to make the disastrous mistake of engaging in anything with Kara.

"It's not the first time I've had sex with a woman," Quinn says. "But - fuck."

"What?"

"How pathetic is it that I'm pretty sure she's going to be the last?"

At just the tone of her voice, Lena makes a mental note to buy Quinn all the bacon she wants. And pancakes. Really, Lena's going to stock her fridge with ice cream and more ice cream.

"So, she was gone?" Lena asks.

Quinn nods. "I don't even know what time she left," she says. "I tried calling this morning, but she didn't answer, and I - I wouldn't even know what to say to her. She said we would talk about it, but I guess it's my own fault for believing her."

Lena follows when Quinn turns right onto a new street, and then right again into a small café. She holds open the door for Lena, and it's an act of chivalry Lena didn't quite expect of her.

Quinn just shrugs, absently shaking off the cold and heading towards the front counter. She orders a Reuben sandwich for herself, along with a vanilla latte, and Lena gets a BLT with her double espresso. They toast the sandwiches right there, Quinn watching like a hawk, and then the two of them settle at a table in the corner.

Quinn starts to eat immediately, and Lena allows her the respite by telling her about the newest project she's working on. The prototype is months away, of course, but -

"I mean, I'm all for more affordable motorised wheelchairs," Quinn says, dabbing at her mouth with a napkin. "Wheelchairs, themselves, are liberating, but it can be tireless work being independent in one."

There's something in her tone of voice that speaks of experience, and Lena's eyebrows rise in question.

Quinn shrugs. "Car accident my senior year," she explains offhandedly. "Almost never walked again." She glances around. "Yale would have been a shit place to come if I were still in the chair, and they claim it's wheelchair-accessible."

Lena just stares at her.

Quinn stops eating. "What?"

"Nothing."

"And you say I'm the lousy liar."

Lena stays silent, because it just seems she's learning more and more about Quinn every time they speak. She couldn't even tell that Quinn went through so much just by looking at her.

"Lena."

"Tell me what happened last night."

Quinn gives her an unimpressed look, but does as told. She's actually good at listening, Lena has found, so Lena tries to do the same in return. It just rubs her the wrong way, really, the way Quinn sounds so -

She just doesn't seem to see anything amiss with what's happened between her and Rachel. It just doesn't sound like it's in Quinn's best interest, and Lena is very invested in Quinn's well-being.

She's still trying to figure out why. She's certain she's not actually attracted to her - even if she is blonde and rather stunning. She's not even slightly jealous in this moment that Quinn was intimate with another woman; just worried about Quinn and what this means for her.

"Do you think she'll come back?" Quinn eventually asks, looking all her nineteen years old. It's always jarring when Lena remembers just how young she is. Every other part of her appears so much older.

Lena wants to tell her yes. It would be easy just to say the words and ease some of Quinn's worry, but they're not lying to each other. "I hope so."

"Do you?"

Lena presses her lips together, looking away. "Quinn, I don't know what you want me to say to you."

Quinn sighs. "Just tell me she's going to come back."

Lena leans forward, eyes settling on Quinn's. "I don't know this Rachel, but she seems like a smart girl, if not confused," she says. "She would be an idiot not to come back."

Quinn's smile is one of relief, and Lena can only hope it remains.

Though, it isn't until two days later that she gets any further news on the entire situation. A single text that she receives during a board meeting.

Quinn: She came back.

Well then.

Someone should get to be happy.


There aren't any set rules, not really, but Quinn catches on to the silent cues pretty easily.

When Rachel comes back, it's in the middle of the afternoon, when Quinn is sitting on the grass in front of her residence and trying to participate in a study group that's slowly sapping her of energy.

It's something out of a dream and a nightmare when she appears, the sun behind her, and Quinn is lost in how beautiful she looks for a moment. Speechless. Rory has to throw a pen at her to get her to close her mouth, and -

Rachel doesn't apologise for leaving. She doesn't apologise at all. When they get to Quinn's room, Quinn expects them to talk. Maybe even just acknowledge what happened between the two of them the last time they saw each other.

None of that happens.

Rachel locks the door, turns to look at her and says, "I don't know what I'm doing here."

Quinn doesn't know what to say to that, because she's half-convinced none of this is even happening. Rachel came back. For whatever reason, and Quinn doesn't know what to do with that.

"I just - " Rachel tries. "I just needed to see you."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"What do you want from me?" Quinn asks, standing perfectly still.

"I don't know," Rachel repeats. "I don't know, okay? I just - I don't know anything, Quinn, except that everything is just so hard right now, but you - "

"I what?"

"That night, being with you, it was - "

"It was what?" Quinn presses, just wishing she would finish at least one sentence. "What more do you want?"

It isn't surprising when Rachel says, "You," but it still manages to catch Quinn off guard when she closes the space between them and kisses her hard enough that the breath is stolen right from her lungs.

They don't talk about it.

Not even after, when Quinn's skin is marked and she's breathless and suddenly wary of what comes next. Because they don't talk about it beyond Rachel's parting words of, "We can't do this again." She says it so seriously, as if it's an instruction to herself. "Okay? Quinn, we can't. God, we can't do this."

Quinn just stares at her. "You're the one who came here," she accuses.

"Not again, Quinn." And then she's up and getting dressed, rushing to get out as quickly as possible and saying nothing more.

Quinn lets her leave, because she doesn't know what words to say that would make her stay.

When Lena asks the tentative question, Quinn doesn't know what to tell her, either. Even Amy looks perplexed by the entire thing, and Quinn has no explanations to offer. She's just as in the dark about what this all means as the rest of them.

And it's all the more confusing to Quinn, because Rachel shows up on the weekend with an actual backpack and an expression on her face that Quinn can't quite read. They need to talk about this. Whatever this is. They have to talk.

What Rachel ends up saying is, "Maybe if we get it out of our system, we'll be able to stop."

Quinn knows the best steps for self-preservation. They're pretty simple, if she just stopped and allowed herself to recognise just how terrible this situation is. Because Quinn isn't certain she would even want to stop, otherwise. Rachel Berry is in her bed. It's almost everything she's wanted.

Almost.

Because Rachel kisses her as if she doesn't quite want to, but can't seem to stop herself; kisses her as if it hurts her to do so. Quinn imagines there's guilt involved, more so now that Finn is gone, but they still manage to fall into some kind of routine that Quinn doesn't know how to talk to anyone about.

This is how it goes.

Rachel comes to New Haven every few days, says little to no coherent words, marks Quinn's skin like Quinn is hers, and then leaves as soon as Quinn falls asleep - even sometimes when she doesn't, which Quinn figured out the hard way.

The rules are pretty simple to decipher. It's just sex - amazing, mind-blowing, unfeeling sex. Nobody can see, and nobody can know. It happens only in New Haven. There's no additional contact between them beyond a handful of random texts. There's no actual schedule, but Rachel never shows up two days in a row.

They don't do anything else, which is also a lesson Quinn learns the hard way. The one time Quinn tries to order takeout after their first round, Rachel ignores her request for her meal preference, and then just leaves, as if she can't let herself get too comfortable.

Quinn hasn't seen her for almost a week, and it bothers her to no end, and she can't bring herself to tell Lena about the latest development - or lack thereof - until she's asking about Quinn's plans for Thanksgiving. It's the moment Quinn has to face the real truth that she doesn't quite want to leave New Haven in case Rachel wants to see her.

It's - she hates it, really. What she's become. Whom she's become.

"I don't know," Quinn says into the phone, stretching out on her bed. She's particularly exhausted by the week as a whole, endless assignments and additional Rachel confusion. "My sister emailed me about it, asking if I was willing to go to Sacramento to spend the holiday with them."

"Are you?"

"I don't know," she says again. "I think half of me is just waiting for someone to show up here and - "

"Like Rachel did, huh?"

Quinn's mouth snaps shut, a blush on her cheeks that she's definitely grateful Lena can't see. "Not quite," she says slowly. "I really don't need any more drama in my life."

"Hmm."

"What are you doing?" Quinn counters, needing the heat off her.

Lena sighs. "Well, I don't actually have anything planned," she says. "My family is… not an option, and my, um, friends were all Kara's friends."

"She got them in the divorce?" Quinn lightly asks.

"They were part of the betrayal."

Quinn has never actually asked, and she doesn't think she ever will. They push each other, sure, but Quinn gets the feeling whatever is holding Lena back from just outright telling her is that the truth isn't actually hers to tell. It's admirable, definitely, but Quinn doesn't know how Lena's supposed to get through it if she can't even talk about it.

"You could come to National City," Lena suggests, voice even. "Have you ever been?"

"I haven't, no."

"Is that something you would want?" Lena asks, and she sounds forcibly calm. As if she's trying very hard not to show her nerves.

Quinn spends a moment thinking about Rachel, whom she hasn't seen in nearly a week. They haven't talked at all, which makes Quinn feel irritated enough to be spiteful.

So, Quinn makes the decision to put herself - and Lena - first. "It is."

"You sound hesitant," Lena points out, and it's a wonder she can even hear that.

"It's not that I'm hesitant," Quinn admits. "It's just - "

"What is it, Quinn?"

"Something has been happening," Quinn starts, sighing. "With Rachel."

"Okay," Lena says. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Yes."

"Right now?"

"Do you have time?"

"Always for you," Lena says, and she sounds as if she means it. "What's been happening?"

Quinn takes a breath, and then she tells her.


Lena doesn't get any sleep.

It's not even as if she tries, choosing rather to distract herself with work before she does something drastic. The desire is there, though, to find this Rachel and pick apart her life. She would fly to New York, just to lay eyes on this person who can't seem to acknowledge that Quinn is someone special and should be treated as such.

Lena settles for finding her online. It's mainly curiosity, because the way Quinn talks about her makes Lena ache for Kara in ways she wishes she wouldn't. Lena just wants to see her, just to know what she looks like.

Lena finds her easily enough, a host of links to several social media profiles and her student records. She's pretty, with a bright smile and eyes that are warm and present. It's easy to see how Quinn could be so charmed by her, especially when Lena finds some videos of the girl performing.

But there's more to it, Lena quickly learns. She's refrained from doing a deep-dive into Quinn, mainly because she respects her too much, but she's not going to offer this Rachel the same courtesy.

Lena learns far more than she thought she would, going back as far as high school. At least now Lena can put faces to all the names in Quinn's stories, and she's able to paint a better picture of pieces of Quinn's teenage years.

She also understands the rage-inducing Argyle. She would have been ripped apart at Lena's own high school.

It still makes Lena burn with something like rage, but not quite there. Quinn might have made mistakes in her past, but this is no way for her to atone. Especially not when it involves her late ex-boyfriend's girlfriend.

With a sigh, Lena switches tracks and lifts her Supergirl and Kara Danvers blocks. While she's here, she may as well read up on anything important she's missed. It feels as if she's constantly out of touch, sure, but she's not quite ready to exist in a world where she has to see Kara-related things on the daily.

There are a few stories of Supergirl's timely interventions, and even an entire article about the visible changes to Kara's latest suit - they're still going on about the pants, apparently. As for the reporter persona, Kara's most recent articles seem to relate to scientific advances, and Lena frowns for only a moment when she realises that, of course, there are things she doesn't know about Kara.

Lena barely has to convince herself to sit and read them, curious what Kara has to say about L-Corp's competitors. Curious about what expertise Kara has to comment on product development and the impact of new inventions. It's the first time she considers lifting the cap she seems to have put on CatCo at her events, and she makes a quick note to tell Jess to change that.

The problem is that Lena ends up reading in Kara's voice and she has to force herself to stop before she starts crying. Doing this was both a good and a bad idea, her heart aching with just how much she misses Kara. Wants nothing more than for things to be okay between them.

Lena shakes her head, getting rid of that foolish desire, and resumes all her blocks. She closes the tabs on Rachel Berry next, undecided on how she's supposed to feel about the girl. It's no wonder Quinn has managed to get herself into this mess. If Lena is confused about it, then she doesn't even imagine how Quinn must feel being involved in all of it.

Whatever she's learned, though, Quinn is her number one priority, and she's coming to realise that's unlikely to change.


"There she is."

Quinn grins at her, adjusting the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she approaches Lena from the terminal. "Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes?"

Lena tilts her head to the left. "Miss me?"

Quinn shrugs. "Meh."

"And here I took time out of my very busy day to come and get you from this very busy airport," Lena says, feigning irritation. "I'm a very busy woman, you know?"

"So you keep telling me."

"You're annoying."

"And hungry."

Lena laughs, stepping back towards the waiting car. "Come meet Frank," she says. "He'll be keeping you company while I'm doing all my very busy tech things."

Quinn steps closer, allows Lena to introduce her to an older gentleman, who very swiftly takes her duffel bag from her and deposits it in the trunk. He has a kind smile and seems to be good people.

Lena deserves good people.

During the drive from the airport, Lena explains that she has a small product launch to attend later that afternoon, but then she's all Quinn's for the rest of the holiday weekend.

Quinn doesn't really want to disrupt Lena's schedule, but she's also relieved that they'll actually get to spend time together. She's also sure she surprises Lena when she says, "Can I come to the launch?"

Lena's expression shifts enough that Quinn is about to take it back when Lena quietly asks, "Would you really want to?"

"Of course," Quinn tells her, meaning it. "I'd love to see where you work and what you've been up to."

Lena can't even look at her when she says, "You know you don't have to, right?"

"I know."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

Lena still doesn't look convinced, but Quinn is stubborn enough to get herself to L-Corp without her, if need's be. "Okay," she finally relents. "We'll stop by my place to drop off your things, maybe grab a snack, and then head back to the office." She types something on her phone. "I'll get Jess to issue you a Pass. The entire thing shouldn't take too long, and then we can get an early dinner after. How does that sound?"

"That works for me," Quinn agrees, definitely amenable to whatever Lena's schedule dictates. It's a given Quinn will be staying with her, and Quinn had something of an idea of what to expect of her home, but it's different to what she expected.

Both cold and warm, modern and functional, starkly white but bursting with accent pieces that don't quite fit the aesthetic - like they're a quiet rebellion, or even the work of someone else. Quinn doesn't quite have the time to figure it out before they have to leave again, grabbing a protein bar and a bottle of water on the way out.

Lena looks deeply apologetic about the rush, but Quinn is just rolling with it. It's Lena's own fault for leaving the office when Quinn really could have just taken an Uber.

L-Corp is massive.

Of course, Quinn already knew this, but it's another thing to be presented with just how astronomical a building over which Lena presides. The launch event is being held in the lobby of the building, small in comparison to some other launches, so Lena says. There are already people waiting, press and other scientists and interested investors.

While Lena sees to some final arrangements, Quinn wanders the area with the Pass Lena makes sure to get for her. It hangs on a lanyard around her neck, applying importance to her that doesn't quite fit.

Not that she's complaining. It's quite the sight getting to witness Lena in her element. She's another beast entirely when she's in work mode, and Quinn is immensely glad they got to know each other before Lena presented this side of herself. It's kind of intimidating.

When the event starts, Quinn finds herself standing in the Press section near the front and to the left. The product being revealed is actually a health system application that offers support to women through various stages of pregnancy and early years after childbirth.

When Lena talks about it, she mentions an old friend who had little to no support through her pregnancy, and Quinn wonders for a moment if Lena is talking about her, right until she realises she's never actually told Lena about Beth. The product's idea was borne from hearing of her experiences, and so 'Jelly Bean' was developed.

Quinn definitely could have used something like it when she was lost and confused and miserable and fifteen.

After the presentation, Lena opens the floor to questions and expertly fields them. She's really in her element, talking application features and server protection and user privacy and all those scary things when dealing with human data and its management.

When it's over, Quinn thinks she might even consider getting pregnant again, some time in the far future, if Lena's systems remain available. Who knew.

Lena still has to do the rounds, though, and Quinn finds herself hovering in the Press section and overhearing a lot of things she wishes she wasn't. If these people don't believe in the good Lena is trying to do, then why do they even bother to come?

There's one voice that cuts through the din, coming to Lena's rescue when one particularly mouthy journalist make a comment about Lena's wasting time on developing mobile applications for women.

Which, well, he's lucky Quinn didn't just kick his shin. She really would have if another blonde journalist didn't do the equivalent with just her words.

Quinn doesn't quite hear what she says, but it's probably about his attitude equating to his inability to get himself a girlfriend. There's a lot of murmuring after, and Quinn feels the need to show her solidarity.

But when blue eyes meet her own, there's no lightness in them. Just a severity that seems very out of place in the press box.

When the woman asks, "Do you have something to add?" as if Quinn would side with anyone against Lena, Quinn scoffs and says, "You pretty much covered it."

The woman glances down at Quinn's lanyard and frowns. "You're not press," she says, eyes narrowing as if she's trying to figure out if Quinn is here to create trouble.

Well.

It's when Quinn sees the lanyard around her neck that something clicks. Two things click, anyway. This woman in front of her is Kara Danvers, the journalist responsible for upending her entire life. But she's also Kara - Lena's Kara.

Huh.

"You're here for the launch," Kara says to her, frowning slightly. "In the press section, but you're not press."

Quinn shrugs. "You're here, too," she says. "Doesn't really seem like your beat. Thought you were uncovering adoption conspiracies these days?"

Kara's eyes dart to where Lena is speaking with an older pair of women a few metres away, and then she looks at Quinn. "That was a one-time thing," she explains.

"Got you a Pulitzer nomination, didn't it?"

Kara looks deeply uncomfortable, and Quinn wonders if the woman regrets the article. She scratches the back of her neck and quietly says, "Lost a lot more in the process, I'm afraid." Her eyes seek out Lena again, as if automatic and unstoppable.

Oh.

Well, that makes a lot more sense, though Quinn wouldn't be able to explain just what she's learned. There's still so much she doesn't know about Lena and Kara's friendship. Was it just a friendship? It just doesn't feel right to learn things from Kara that Lena wouldn't tell her herself.

Quinn clears her throat. "I'm not press," she says. "But I guess this counts as a backstage pass, right? I'm just here to support Lena." Quinn doesn't really mean anything by the words, but she doesn't miss the way Kara's face falls at the casual way Quinn refers to Lena.

Wait.

Oh wait. No. Whoa, no. It's definitely not like that.

Quinn scrambles to make her presence make sense. "I'm actually writing a paper on her," she rushes to say. "For a college course I'm in. She's been kind enough to let me tag along and shadow all the great things she does."

Kara seems to relax, but her smile doesn't quite return. "She is pretty great, isn't she?" she murmurs, and Quinn really feels for her in this moment.

Whatever happened must have been pretty bad.

It makes her think of Rachel, who still hasn't contacted her. Rachel, who Quinn has wanted for longer than she'd ever truly admit. Rachel, who already holds a part of Quinn hostage and probably doesn't even know it. Rachel, who seems to want her too, but is determined to fight against it.

"She is," Quinn agrees. "She's really helped me out the past few weeks."

Kara looks up. "Oh?"

"Considering your article basically blew apart my entire existence, it's been nice to have the support of someone who understands."

Kara's eyes widen. "Oh."

"Yip."

Kara looks as if she wants to apologise, but that's the moment Lena decides to join them, pointedly standing beside Quinn and not Kara. Her smile is polite, perhaps tinged with some concern over the two of them interacting. But she's very calm as she says, "I see you two have met."

Quinn smiles at her, hoping to ease the tension visible in her shoulders. "I was just telling Kara how she basically ruined my life," she says, obviously trying to make a joke.

Lena ruins it when she blinks once, and says, "Well, you and I seem to have a lot in common."

It's a little odd, maybe, because Lena looks as if she actually means it. Quinn shifts, suddenly feeling awkward, and she can't quite handle the expression on Kara's face in this moment. Her eyes are on Lena's entire person, taking in everything she can, as if she's a starved woman.

Quinn gets it.

She definitely, definitely gets it.

"We should go," Lena says, hand touching Quinn's arm. "I promised you dinner."

"Okay."

Lena turns to go, still not saying a word to Kara. Not even really acknowledging her. It -

Quinn's sure she would actually die if ever Rachel were to do that to her. Maybe it's the reason she hangs back a moment, watching the way Kara's gaze follows Lena as she walks away. "She'll come around," she says before she can stop herself.

Kara's eyes snap back to her. "No, she won't," she says, tired and defeated. "You're taking care of her, right?"

Quinn shakes her head. "Lena can take care of herself."

"I know," Kara says, and she sounds fond and just a little amused. Sad, too. "But you're still doing it, right?"

"Yeah," she says, "I am." Waits for Kara's grateful smile, and then turns around and follows behind Lena the way she was always going to.


"I don't want to talk about it."

Quinn just looks up from her menu, mouth in a cute pout. "What?"

"I'm just letting you know that I don't want to talk about it," Lena presses, even though she's distinctly aware that Quinn has said nothing about her encounter with Kara.

"Okay."

Lena goes still. "Okay?"

Quinn nods once, and then returns her attention to the menu in her hands. "I can't decide between the salmon and the steak sandwich," she comments lightly, and Lena just stares at her. Is she for real?

"Quinn?"

"Maybe the burger," she muses. "God, that sounds so good. They stuff the patty with cheese, Lena."

Lena puffs out a breath. "Most people would try to get me to talk about it," she says.

"I'm not most people."

"And you're just reminding me of that," Lena says, sitting back. "What if I want to talk about it?"

"Then you should."

Lena sighs, gently closing her own menu. She already knows what she's going to order. "Go with the burger," she says. "You won't regret it." Saying the words makes her think of Kara, which is -

Kara.

After their server comes to take their order, Quinn still doesn't press for any information and Lena finds it only slightly irritating. Mainly because she knows exactly what Quinn is doing, and it's actually working.

Instead, Quinn sits quietly, looking around the restaurant as if she's never been in a gastropub before. She's patient and stubborn, but so is Lena. They'll wait each other out.

When Quinn does finally speak, Lena feels smug for only a moment before she hears her say, "My life isn't actually ruined." She tilts her head to the side. "Do you really believe yours is?"

Lena opens her mouth to answer, but she doesn't know what she's going to say. The truth isn't easy, and she told herself she wouldn't lie to Quinn, either. "Do you think me a fool, Quinn?"

Quinn startles at the question. "No, Lena, I don't."

"Well, I am."

Quinn remains silent, waiting patiently.

"I am a damn fool, Quinn, and Kara is a fucking coward." The words come out harsher and a lot louder than Lena initially intends.

Quinn doesn't so much as fidget. Not even a flinch. It's obviously not the first time someone has raised their voice in front of her, which makes Lena feel guilty. And then irritated that she's now thinking about Lex, who resorted to lashing out verbally quite often in those final years before he went completely off the rails.

"I'm sorry," Lena says, dropping her gaze, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "I don't - I just - I don't think it's a good idea for me to talk about it right now."

"Okay."

Lena sighs. "Please can we talk about anything else."

Quinn nods and easily says, "We have to go grocery shopping after this." She grins. "I already made a list, because you have basically nothing at your place."

Lena frowns. "Okay, but why?"

"I'm going to cook."

"You don't have to do that."

"I know," Quinn says with a shrug. "I want to."

Their food arrives a moment later, which pauses their conversation, and Quinn doesn't appear inclined to pick it up again once she has her bacon and cheese burger right in front of her. It reminds Lena of Kara in one of the better ways: her enthusiasm for food.

It's in between bites of her burger that Quinn receives a text, her phone lighting up on the table. Lena watches her glance at it and then sag in her seat. It doesn't take a genius to realise from whom the text is, and Quinn's appetite seems to vanish with its arrival.

"What is she saying?" Lena asks.

Quinn's jaw clenches for a moment, her hands setting her burger on her plate. "She's asking where I am."

"As in she's in New Haven right now?"

Quinn uses her napkin to wipe her hands and mouth before texting Rachel back. "Yip, apparently she is." She frowns. "Wanted to see me before she went to Lima tomorrow morning."

"That's nice of her," Lena comments, unable to help her sarcasm.

"Lena." She sounds exhausted all of a sudden, thumbs typing something that deepens her frown.

"Do you wish you were back in New Haven?" Lena asks when she knows she shouldn't. She doesn't actually want to know the answer.

Quinn shakes her head. "I'm perfectly happy where I am right now," she says, eyes still on her phone. "Though, I do wish she'd be less…" she trails off, not able to find the right word.

"Erratic," Lena offers, and Quinn snorts.

"Something like that," she concedes. Shrugs, and then sets her phone screen-side down. "Sorry about that. No more phone."

"I'm afraid I can't make the same promise," she says. "I'm waiting on news from Jess about the launch's aftermath."

"Are you expecting bad reviews?"

Lena takes a bite of her salmon. "I'm a Luthor," she replies. "It's almost a given. There's always scrutiny about anything we release. I'm sure there'll be some sound bite about how I must be pregnant now."

Quinn's eyes widen. "And they can just do that?"

"People are allowed to say whatever they want to say."

Quinn looks away, her lips pressed into a thin line. "I suppose," she murmurs. She clears her throat. "The woman you mentioned, the one who basically inspired the entire thing, who is she?"

Lena smiles at the mere thought of Sam. It's easier to talk about her than it is to talk about Kara. Even though there's now even more of a complicated history there, now that Lena knows Kara is Supergirl. Her reaction to the kryptonite makes that bit more sense, though Lena's still irked by the way everything was handled.

As long as Sam is safe.

"Her name is Sam Arias," Lena tells her. "We met in college, during this one seminar, and we ended up bitching about our lecturer for the entire hour. I didn't learn she had a daughter until some weeks after that, but she was - Sam was making it work, somehow." She sips some of her wine, taking it at face value when Quinn says she's okay with her drinking, even if she can't. "Sam had Ruby when she was eighteen, and it's been just the two of them since."

Quinn drops her gaze, fingers tapping on the table. "What about her family?" she whispers.

Lena hesitates, realising the words she's about to say apply to them both. "They didn't want her," she says. "Sam managed to figure it out on her own."

"Because she was eighteen," Quinn says, more to herself. "It would have been different if she were younger, right? Harder to keep her."

"Quinn?"

She looks up, eyes full of a pain Lena hasn't yet seen. "I couldn't keep her."

Lena's stomach bottoms out, her appetite disappearing with it. "What?"

Quinn lifts her phone and searches through it. After a moment, she holds it out for Lena to see, the screen showing an adorable blonde toddler in Quinn's arms. Their smiles are the same.

"Her name is Beth," Quinn says. "I had her when I was sixteen. I was dating Finn at the time, but the father was actually his best friend. My parents kicked me out, I made the decision to give her up, and Rachel's biological mother is the one who adopted her."

Of all the things Lena was expecting to hear today, that's definitely not it. She doesn't know how to respond to that, because so many things now make sense, but also not. Her mouth opens, and then closes. Opens again. Nothing.

Quinn looks over her shoulder to get their server's attention. He rushes over immediately, Quinn's magnetism at work. Quinn doesn't even look at Lena when she asks for her meal to be packed to go, and Lena asks for the same, along with the check.

They leave shortly after, and Frank takes them to the grocery store at Lena's request. Quinn is quiet as they move through the aisles, getting all the items on her list and avoiding the other late-night shoppers. Lena knows not to push, but they do have a lot of things to talk about.

Namely, Quinn has a daughter. Quinn has given birth to another human being and given her up. Quinn gave up her child for adoption, and has just learned that she's adopted, herself. It's a lot even for Lena to wrap her head around.

When Quinn has everything she needs - and a lot more she obviously doesn't - they head back to Lena's penthouse. Quinn helps her pack away the groceries, and then disappears to shower and emerges twenty minutes later in warm pyjamas and fluffy socks.

Lena learns that she wears glasses.

Lena doesn't mean to stare as hard as she does, but it's the first time she's seen Quinn in them, and it's really a wonder to her that a pair of glasses could be considered such an effective disguise.

Unless they're really not and Lena's brain function just diminishes in Kara's presence. It's a tossup, really.

Quinn settles herself on the couch with Lena, shifts until she's comfortable, and then she talks.

Chapter Text

iv. what if i told you the world wouldn't end if you started showing what's under your skin?

Quinn tells her everything.

Every dirty, dark little thing.

There's really no point in hiding away anymore, and Lena seems determined to know her, so Quinn is going to let her.

Lena listens in silence, nodding a few times and tilting her head one way and the other. There's no judgment in her expression, some concern, but also all the understanding in the world.

Quinn rarely speaks about Beth. She's the one thing Quinn can't touch and not worry she's going to sully the very thought of her. She's still the only perfect thing Quinn has managed in her life, and it is a mercy to them both that Quinn is no longer in her life.

"Do you know where she is now?" Lena asks once Quinn has fallen to silence.

Quinn does know, yeah, and she's still trying to decide if it's better or worse that she does. "New York."

Lena nods slowly, digesting. "I'm going to tell you something now."

Quinn sits, waiting.

"Are you listening?"

She nods.

"The way you tell this story is wrong," Lena says, looking right into her eyes. "You tell it as if you are the villain, and you are not."

The rebuttal is already on the tip of Quinn's tongue, but the look on Lena's face keeps her silent.

"You make yourself sound evil," Lena says. "As if you are the master of your own fate, which is why you accept the lot life has sent your way. Believe me when I say this, Quinn, because it is the truth. You are not evil. You are not some kind of villain. You were and still are a young woman muddling through life, making mistakes and trying to learn from them, and it is not fair to yourself to blame only yourself for the way your life has thus far played out.

"I have met evil," she says. "I have looked into the eyes of villains, felt the curdling in my gut at the thought of becoming one of them. You, dear, are nothing like you describe."

Quinn hasn't felt small in a long time. Hasn't felt anything like Lucy. Not until this moment, with Lena Luthor sitting across from her and telling her that everything she's thought about herself is wrong.

Quinn opens her mouth, starts to speak, and then stops. Starts again. "If I'm not a villain, then neither are you," she finally says.

Lena looks a little startled by her words, but she eventually nods in acceptance. Then: "I've done some questionable things, though."

Quinn looks at her, expectant.

"I know you know my family's history, because it's impossible not to," Lena continues, shifting on the couch to get more comfortable. "You've probably heard all the stories and the rumours and all the gossip about my father, brother, mother and me." She sighs. "They're all true."

Quinn suspects she shouldn't, but she can't resist asking, "You're bald, too?" and Lena lets out an unexpected laugh.

She tugs on a lock of her own hair. "Nope," she says. "All mine."

Quinn smiles, feeling relieved the little joke went down well. The hard set of Lena's shoulders even loosens slightly.

Lena's smile eventually fades, though. "I've been viewed as a Luthor for years. Judged by my surname and treated as such. Meeting Kara - it was just different with her. She understood when I told her I wanted to make a name for myself outside of my family. She looked at me and she saw me, and I'll admit that I wasn't sure how to handle that feeling."

"What feeling?"

"Being seen."

"Her eyes are very blue," Quinn points out.

"Oh, my God, they are," Lena agrees, exasperated. "And, sometimes, she can look at you as if nobody and nothing else is important, and I don't think I ever managed to get used to it." She runs a hand through her hair, looking more disheveled than Quinn has ever seen her. It's a wonderful sight. "But she has this way of sneaking in. I didn't even know it was happening until she was already inside, filling up every cavity within me with all this light and positivity and comfort and kindness and just - it was a lot. Just thinking about it, it's still a lot."

Quinn watches her get this faraway look in her eye, determined not to interrupt and break her flow.

"But none of it was real." She blows out a breath. "Or, at least, I don't know what was real or not. Because, you see, I am a Luthor, and there are just things I can't be trusted with. Maybe everything was a lie, maybe only parts of it, but I do know that Kara kept something massive from me, and I don't - I'm not sure how we're ever supposed to come back from it."

"Do you want to?"

"Excuse me?"

Quinn clears her throat. "Do you want to come back from it?" she asks. "Do you want to fix it? Work at it until you can get something back, something possibly better? Is that even something you want?"

Lena gives it significant thought, and then says, "I don't know."

"Yes, you do," Quinn counters.

"I don't," Lena says. "I just know that I definitely won't survive it if ever she hurts me like that again. I've barely made it through this part, and that's mainly because of you."

As warm as that would make her feel, Quinn says, "Please don't make me your coping mechanism."

"You're a lot healthier than my other ones."

"Lena."

She sighs. "I miss her, and I want her back," she says. "That's obvious."

"If you say so."

"But you saw us today," Lena says. "I don't think I'm ready to get anything back, better or not, without wanting to hurt her the way she's hurt me, and that's why it's better that we exist apart."

"For now?"

It is very telling that Lena doesn't give her a response.


Lena learns what the main difference is between her upbringing and Quinn's the next morning. It's been there, in the recesses of her mind, but Lena was raised to run a company, and Quinn was raised to run a home.

She's very good at it.

Lena's penthouse has felt like a home only when Kara was around, but Quinn's presence gets it somewhere close. She's largely very clean, keeping her possessions neat and generally out of sight, but there's also the way she leaves her books piled on Lena's coffee table and the way she goes through so much tea that Lena's sure her kettle hasn't been used this much in months.

Quinn always - always - folds her throw blanket into a tidy square before she goes to bed, and it is possibly the strangest, most endearing thing about her.

Lena also learns Quinn isn't a morning person in general, and coffee doesn't work as effectively on her as it does on Lena. She's also a rather good cook, seemingly willing to try new recipes and twists on classics, and Lena knows she hasn't eaten as well as she does in the four days Quinn spends with her since she was living at Luthor Manor.

They spend all of Thursday indoors, and don't brave the madness that can be Black Friday until late in the evening when Quinn insists they take a walk. She needs some fresh air, apparently, and Lena points to her very large, very present balcony.

"Why do you even have one this high up?" Quinn asks, approaching the door but not opening it. "Isn't it dangerous?"

Lena smiles to herself. "Worried I'll fall off?" she asks.

Quinn glances at her. "I mean, doesn't it get windy? I watch the Mission Impossible movies, you know? And the Fast and Furious ones."

Lena decides, in this moment, that she's going to do all she can to make sure this girl stays in her life. It's really as simple as that. There's no other option.

"I know I'm not a genius like you, but I also dabbled in the science once upon a time," Quinn continues, stepping closer to the windows. "I don't even want to open the door. What if we get sucked out or something?"

"You realise it's an enclosed balcony, right?"

"That tells me nothing." She looks out the windows again. "Though, if I do get sucked out there, do you think Supergirl might save me?"

It was silly to think Quinn could come to National City and not be curious about Supergirl. Especially when Lena, herself, chose this city specifically for her.

"She might," Lena assures her. "She saved me."

Quinn spins around. "Say what?"

Lena shrugs. "At my office. A bunch of goons kind of threw me over, and Supergirl caught me."

Quinn stares at her with wide eyes. "Um. Excuse me, but are you trying to tell me people actually pushed you off a balcony, and you would have gone all Merrick in The Old Guard if a super-powered alien didn't show up and save you?"

"I don't understand the reference, but I'm going to say yes?"

"You don't understand the ref - " she stops, looking baffled. "You haven't watched The Old Guard?"

"Nope."

"And you're sure you like women?"

Lena laughs. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Beefcake women? Because I've seen Kara, and she's a total - "

"Quinn!"

She laughs as well, looking oh so young. "Here's what's going to happen," she says. "I'm not opening that door, because I don't actually want to die, so we're going to go for a walk. Downstairs. On the solid ground. And then we're going to come home and watch The Old Guard." She glares a little. "If you even tell me you haven't watched, like, Imagine Me & You, then I'm leaving."

Lena ignores her sudden rush of panic at such a thing and tells her, "I'm not completely hopeless, Quinn."

Quinn gives her a pitying look. "You're lucky you're cute."

Lena stops laughing immediately. "I am not cute," she huffs, indignant. "I'll have you know I am capable of striking fear into the smarmiest of men."

"Oh, I don't doubt that," Quinn says, starting to walk towards the bedroom she's using, intent on getting her shoes and a coat. "You make them quake."

"I do!"

"Of course, I'm not disputing that," Quinn tosses over her shoulder.

"Then, why does it feel as if you don't believe me?" she calls back.

"Because you're currently wearing a purple sweater that's way too big for you and my unicorn socks," she points out as she disappears from the room.

Lena looks down at what she's wearing, huffs a laugh, and is forced to concede the point.


"You'll be okay, right?"

Lena doesn't look impressed with the question, but Quinn has to ask it. "You're going to miss your flight," is what she says instead, which is silly, because Lena's making her fly private.

'Making.'

Lena asked, and Quinn agreed. Apparently, it'll make her feel better, and Quinn will do what she can to make sure of it.

"Will you?" Quinn presses.

"I will," Lena says. "I'm going to be okay, Quinn. I promise."

"No falling off your balcony, okay?"

"Didn't fall, remember."

Quinn sighs. "Just be careful," she says. "You're important."

Lena rolls her eyes. "I'm aware, thank you, L-Corp would fall apart without me. Though, I'm sure my Board would just love to get rid of me. I'd like to see them steer the ship without me."

Quinn frowns at the sound of her words, a little heart sore that Lena's placed her worth in solely her company. "No, Lena," she says, "I mean you're important to me. As you, the person. Not the company."

"Oh."

Quinn smiles full of truth. "Got it?"

Lena nods, firm. "Got it," she says, and Quinn accepts that she does. Quinn accepts many things about her life, at the moment. Accepts that Lena is a very important part of it, accepts that she's gained something just as she's lost something else. Quinn has also accepted that her identity doesn't have to be linked to another person, whether it be her family, friends or romantic relationship.

Still, it is unfortunate that she's also seemed to accept that, when she lands back in New Haven and Rachel is actually waiting for her, it means nothing.


When Lena finally gets to Kara's latest letter, it's on the day she gets kidnapped by some covert team of mercenaries. She didn't really have time for questions as to exactly why, given the situation, but Lena is a billionaire, and money can be such a big motivator.

Supergirl saves her, because of course she does. What's different this time around is that Lena doesn't feel blinded with rage and anger and betrayal when she sees her. Even the apathy has faded to something that's brimming beneath the surface and becomes something that's almost longing. It would just be nice to be able to talk to her best friend, but Lena knows there's no way for them to get back what they lost.

Whatever happens from this point forward, their relationship will never be what it once was. So much has already changed, for each of them, and between them. Even if they could re-establish a friendship, it wouldn't be the same. Perhaps it's just easier existing in this limbo, stuck between the Before and After.

Kara stays a while, lingering in Lena's periphery while the paramedics make sure she's good to go after being manhandled and tied up for so long. She has a few bruises and some scrapes, but it's nothing compared to what she's been through in the past.

Kara's eves give away her worry to anyone who's willing to look for it, and Lena does her the courtesy of whispering, "I'm not physically harmed," to the wind, just knowing Kara will hear her. The words are phrased that way, because they tell the least of a lie. She's been harmed in many other ways.

Kara's head lifts, indicating she's heard the words. She sweeps her gaze over the remnants of the latest attempt to get something from Lena, nods to a few official-looking people, and then takes off into the air without another word.

Lena watches her go, fighting off her disappointment. All these months later and Lena is still a contradiction, even to herself.

The paramedic clears her to go a few minutes later, which is when she's accosted by Alex and another agent of the DEO. Now, Lena hasn't seen Alex in a lot longer than she hasn't seen Kara, and it hurts, just in a different way.

But Alex is nothing if not a professional, maintaining her sister's stance by giving Lena exactly what she wants and acting as if there aren't years of moments between them.

One of them threw the moments away, and the other took out the trash.

Lena answers Alex's questions as best she can, confirming the theory that the group is dealing in alien technology and weapons. It's nothing new, not really, and Alex doesn't look all that surprised by it. What she is surprised by is when Lena actually agrees to Alex's offer of a ride back to her office - because even Alex knows Lena wouldn't go home after something as rudimentary as an abduction.

Alex drives her, just the two of them, and Lena sits, bracing herself for some kind of lecture about the way everything has unfolded between her and Kara.

Alex says nothing.

Just drives in silence and pulls up right in front of the entrance to L-Corp' main building. It's only when the car has come to a standstill that Alex asks, "Are you really okay?" as if she doesn't quite believe Lena has emerged from the experience unscathed.

Lena doesn't want to look at her, but she can't help glancing in her direction, freezing at the concern very clear to see in Alex's gaze. She and Kara might not be related by blood, but they share that expression. "I'm fine," she says, and these words are definitely a lie.

Alex knows this. "Are you?"

"What do you want to hear, Alex?" she asks, suddenly exhausted. "Do you want to hear that I'm a mess? That I don't sleep and Jess has to remind me to eat? That I spend my days more concerned over a nineteen-year-old across the country than myself? That I miss my best friend so fucking much that I barely know what to do with myself? That I sometimes get so sad about it that I can barely breathe? Is that what you want to hear?"

Alex looks momentarily stunned, her mouth opening and closing. Then: "You don't honestly believe you're the only one, do you?"

"You seem fine," Lena says snappishly.

Alex lets out a dark laugh. "I have spent my entire adult life protecting my sister," she says. "It is a part of me; practically engrained in my being. Everything I have ever done has been to protect her. Her pain is my pain. Do you understand that?"

"You're a great sister, Alex, I know," Lena says, and she sounds petulant to her own ears.

"I am not fine," Alex says, irritated. "I miss my friend, of course, but I also have this additional turmoil because my sister is lost and miserable and insistent on giving you the space you demanded of her." She sighs. "Why do you keep insisting on punishing everyone? Including yourself?"

"If I didn't deserve the truth, then why would I deserve any semblance of happiness?" Lena asks, and it's meant to be rhetorical.

Alex responds anyway. "If you want an answer to that question, you should talk to Kara," she says. "She will answer every question you have, whether you ask them or not."

Lena looks away, trapping her bottom lip between her teeth. "I'm not ready," she whispers.

And Alex asks, "Will you ever be?" as if she needs Lena to have an answer for her. Needs to be able to take something, anything, back to Kara. To ease whatever pain she's in.

Lena doesn't know what to tell her.

Alex sighs, her shoulders slumping. "Just take care of yourself, okay?" she murmurs. "I'll take care of Kara until you are."

Lena blinks. "Until I'm what?"

"Ready."

Lena doesn't know what to say in response to that, so she doesn't try. Just murmurs a quiet thank you and goodbye, and then gets out of the car. If she stumbles a little, Alex doesn't mention it. Just lets her walk into her building and through the lobby.

Security doesn't look alarmed to see her but Edwin makes sure to ask if she's doing all right after all the excitement. Lena manages to smile at him in response, and then lets it fade once she's in the elevator.

Jess jumps to her feet the second Lena steps onto her floor, eyes wide. "What are you doing here?" she asks, voice rushed. "Are you okay? Shouldn't you be at home? I've got everything under control here."

"Jess," Lena says, suddenly exhausted.

Her assistant freezes, and then moves closer. Her hands reach out to guide Lena forward and into her office. Jess sets her on the couch and stares worriedly at her. "Lena, I'm going to call Frank to come get you and take you home," she says, going against her norm and calling Lena by her first name.

"No," Lena says, a little panicked. "I don't want to - I can't - "

Jess' eyes widen. "Um." She looks around, trying to figure out what to say. "Quinn has been calling."

"What?"

"Quinn," Jess says. "She's called a few times. She saw the news. She's been worried about you."

Lena takes in her own office. "I don't know where my phone is."

Jess goes to Lena's desk, lifts her desk phone and dials Quinn's number from memory. She must have learned it the few times Quinn has called.

Lena just watches her from her position on the couch, not wanting to move. Not able to. She hears Jess say some words to Quinn, and then the phone is being placed in Lena's hand. "I'll get you some water," Jess says, and then starts to back away.

Lena says, "And the letter."

Jess freezes. "Excuse me?"

"Kara's letter," Lena says. "Please bring it in."

Jess leaves the office at the same time Lena brings the phone up to her ear and says, "I hear you're worried about me."

"Lena!" Quinn says, loud and relieved. "Oh my God, are you okay? Where are you? Shit. People straight up just snatched you from the street."

"What?"

"They've been running it on the news," Quinn says. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

"Quinn?"

"Please tell me you're okay."

"I'll do you one better," Lena starts, making the decision before she can spend too much time thinking about it. "I'll come to New Haven."

"Right now?" Quinn squeaks. "Should you even be travelling?"

"They didn't actually hurt me," Lena tells her, and of course speaking to Quinn has the desired effect of helping to calm her. Slowly, and slightly. "Just surprised me, is all. I suppose I was out of practice, you know? It's been some months since the last attempt."

"Wait, what?"

Lena sighs. "I promise I'm okay."

"You know I'm just going to ask Jess, right," Quinn says. "And I'm going to tell her to send you home."

Lena internally panics at the words, but then Jess is coming back with her water, a protein bar and Kara's letter. She sets them all on the coffee table in front of Lena, gives her a critical look, shakes her head, and then walks right back out of the office.

"Lena?" Quinn's voice has steadied, her own panic subsiding. "Sorry. I just - I'm worried, but I'm all the way over here, and I don't think you should be travelling right now, and I can't exactly leave when I have Finals coming up, and Rachel just left, and you need to be rest - "

"You're probably right," Lena says.

"Say that again."

Lena chuckles, the sound tired to her own ears. She reaches for the glass of water and takes a hearty sip. "I should rest up, see to some things, and then I'll come tomorrow."

"Yeah?"

"It'll be nice to see you."

Quinn puffs out a breath. "You're really making this a habit, you know?"

"I definitely need to get out of the city," Lena tells her, and she means it. "I never used to have some place I could go." The admission is quiet, barely a whisper, and she almost expects Quinn to make a sarcastic comment about it.

She doesn't.

Instead, Quinn says, "There is this new café I want to try," with a gentleness Quinn sometimes shows her. "You're paying, though."

"Of course, Quinn," Lena easily agrees, because Quinn will joke about it but rarely follow through. She claims to be a struggling student, but Lena knows better. Lena might be excessively wealthy, but she's among her kin when she's with Quinn.

"Hey."

Lena blinks back into reality. "Hmm?"

"I'm glad you're not dead."

Lena laughs softly. "Me too," she murmurs, and this is the first time in a while that she's truly meant it. Staying alive is sometimes just so hard, but she really doesn't want to give her mother the satisfaction of just giving up.

"So, see you tomorrow?" Quinn says.

"You have to go?"

"Not if you don't need me to," Quinn offers, gentle and knowing. "I'm just revising anyway. Trying to memorise timelines for my Mythology elective."

Lena lets out an unexpected laugh. "Mythology?"

"It sounded interesting when I was picking courses," Quinn admits. "And it has been, for the most part. I've always been curious."

"Tell me the weirdest thing you've learned," Lena says, but she's really just saying, please keep talking to me, I don't want to be alone right now.

It's while Quinn is telling her about Hephaestus that Lena finds herself reaching for the letter. Her heart hasn't managed to slow since a team of men grabbed her right off the street.

Lena opens the letter.

Best to get it over with, then.


Quinn knows they're not the kind of people to do it, but she can't help herself when she sees Lena waiting right in front of Bingham Hall. She's casually leaning against a sleek black car, hands clasped in front of her and wearing the kind of expression on her face that prompts Quinn's next action.

She hugs Lena.

Lena's very obviously surprised, if the way she stiffens is anything to go by, but Quinn holds the hug until Lena relaxes into the embrace and even returns it. It's just that Quinn has watched footage of the attack a few times and she needs to be sure that she's really okay. Solid and warm and physically okay.

When Quinn eventually releases her, she can't help saying, "You don't look as terrible as I thought you would."

"Is that why you're hugging me?"

Quinn shrugs. "Just because I said you don't look as terrible as I thought, doesn't mean you don't still look like shit."

"Ever the flatterer, Quinn Fabray."

Quinn grins, easy, even if her eyes must give away her concern. "Time for coffee," she says. "I have to tell you about the horror of catching Amy going at it with her boyfriend on the couch this morning."

Lena has a driver take them, which Quinn accepts with little fanfare. She would marvel at Lena's casual displays of wealth, but Quinn knows a thing or two about inherited fortunes. It's a part of the world she could fit into, and she gets the feeling Lena has recognised that.

The café is new, recently opened, and Quinn has heard a thing or two from some of her peers about it. They're supposed to have really good bagels.

For the first time, Lena doesn't sit opposite her. She settles in the seat to Quinn's left, their knees touching, and it's just another indication that this entire thing seems to have affected her more than she would admit.

"You didn't sleep, did you?" Quinn points out.

Lena looks out the window. "Several things happened after the end of our call yesterday," she explains. "It's one of the reasons why I told you I won't be able to stay."

Quinn pouts, almost automatically, and then forces herself to stop because she's not a child. A server brings their coffees and bagels, setting their plates in front of them and offering them a kind smile. "I think we are making a habit of this," she says when the server is gone. "I want you to stay."

Lena smiles at her, the first genuine one. "You know I would," she says, "but this is kind of important."

"What's more important than me?"

Lena gives her a very unimpressed look, and Quinn just grins. "Drink your coffee, you heathen."


"I found my grandmother," Lena tells her between bites of her own bagel, and Quinn's hand freezes where she's lifting her cup to her lips. "At least, I think she's my grandmother."

Quinn sets her cup on the table. "Lena," she says, "that's amazing."

Lena leans forward, because Quinn is the first person she's been able to tell about this discovery. "Well, I didn't find her myself."

"Oh?"

"Kara did, actually," Lena reveals, and she's aware she's blushing - more so when Quinn's eyebrows rise. "Apparently, she's been doing more specific searching for my family."

Quinn's grin is slow as it spreads across her face. "Has she, now?"

Lena shakes her head. "We haven't even spoken," she says. "Kara just left a letter with Jess, and I've learned to read them." She pauses. "Eventually, at least."

"So, what happens now?" Quinn asks, allowing Lena the choice not to talk about Kara. Which Lena suspects is a ploy not to talk about Rachel, either. It's amazing, just how messed up their love lives are.

"I leave for Ireland as soon as we're done here," Lena informs her.

"Ireland?"

"Apparently, that's where my family's from," Lena says. "It definitely explains my paleness."

Quinn smiles, allowing Lena's particular brand of humour the same way Lena does in return. "Are you nervous?"

"Deathly."

Quinn's smile softens. "I'd offer to come with you, but I suspect you'd want to go alone, and I have school."

Lena appreciates her even more in this moment, but she'll never say it. Instead, she says, "And you don't want to be off the continent when Rachel randomly shows up for her booty call."

Quinn's smile freezes on her face, but Lena doesn't regret it. Lena knows an unhealthy coping mechanism when she sees one, and she's trying to stop Quinn from making the same mistakes. "That's not fair," she finally says.

"You're right," Lena agrees. "It isn't fair. Particularly to you."

"Lena?"

"Quinn." She leans forward. "You know this is helping nobody. I don't want you to be someone's secret, okay? Not this way. Not when it so obviously hurts you. I can't stand to see it."

Quinn's jaw clenches, the line of her chin defiant. She opens her mouth, probably to say something harsh, but Lena cuts in before she can.

"I know," Lena says. "I know I'm being hypocritical, but I don't see how I fix things with Kara right now, and you can't say the same thing about you and Rachel."

"What's there to fix?"

"You deserve more."

Quinn looks away, a vein in her forehead getting more pronounced. "What if I don't?"

"I think I'm a better judge of that than you are," Lena informs her. "Believe me when I tell you that you deserve more. From her, or from someone else. You just do, and I will always win this debate."

"What if I lose her?" Quinn asks, and she sounds so, so young. "I've lost everyone else."

The parallel continues, and Lena leans back in her chair, overwhelmed. "Quinn."

"Lena."

"You haven't lost me."

"Yet."

Lena smiles, which is a reaction Quinn definitely doesn't expect. "I like that you're not an optimist, but you're also such a downer."

"I think they call that a realist."

"A pessimist, maybe."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "This is honestly the weirdest relationship I've ever had."

Lena gasps, exaggerating her reaction. "You do realise you're having repeated, unhealthy sex with your high school crush, who also happens to act as if she hates you, right?"

Quinn shrugs. "At least that makes sense to me."

Lena frowns. "How so?"

"Everyone who's ever wanted me has wanted me for either my body or what my popularity could give them," she says, almost offhandedly. "You don't seem to want anything from me other than, well, me."

"We're honestly the worst people for each other," Lena says. "We have the exact same problems."

Quinn drinks more of her coffee, her brow furrowed. "Does that mean I'm destined not to be happy?" she asks, and it's pointed enough that the question she's really asking is if she's going to end up like Lena.

Because Lena isn't happy, and it's a truth she won't even attempt to deny. "It's my job to make sure you don't," she finally says.

Quinn shifts her weight. "Why?"

And, frankly, Lena doesn't know what to tell her. So she says, "I don't know," and takes it for granted that Quinn will understand. It's what they're able to do for each other.


Quinn hugs Lena goodbye for the first time in their lives, hands steady on her back. Quinn think she needs it, given she's about to fly halfway across the world to meet a woman who is one of her last known relatives.

"You sure you don't want me to come with you?" Quinn says one last time.

Lena gently shoves her away, but then keeps her fingers locked around Quinn's right wrist. "I'll take you one day," she says. "You've never been, have you?"

"To Ireland?" She shakes her head. "Nope."

"Anywhere near there? The UK?"

Quinn nods. "Once," she says. "When I was six, I think. My father's sister got married to a man from Manchester, and they had one of the ceremonies there. I don't remember much."

Lena's eyes do that thing when she's making plans she feels she won't be able to voice. As if she thinks Quinn won't be up for whatever she suggests. As if she's not convinced Quinn would actually want to spend time with her.

God.

They really are remarkably similar.

Quinn smiles. "Anyway," she says, "have a safe flight, yeah, and make sure to let me know when you land."

Lena nods once, affirmative, and then she's getting into the back of her car. Quinn shuts the door for her, bends to look through the open window and can't mistake the obvious nerves in Lena's eyes.

"She's going to love you," Quinn assures her. "She'd be crazy not to."

"Because you're the expert, hmm?"

Quinn winks as she straightens, absently tapping the top of the car. "I'm all the family you need, Luthor."

Lena acts unimpressed, but Quinn sees the blush on her cheeks as clear as day. "Bye, Quinn," she mutters, reaching through the window to squeeze Quinn's fingers in parting.

"See you, Lena," Quinn says, voice softer. "And good luck."

And then she's gone, Quinn watching the car disappear from sight, leaving the campus as if Lena Luthor didn't just make one of her impromptu flights across the country just to see little old Quinn.

With a sigh, Quinn turns on her heel to start on her way into Bingham Hall. Of course, Lena would drop her off right out front, and she's already mentally going through what she's going to do when she gets into her room.

Which is why Quinn doesn't notice her until the last second.

Not until Rachel is standing right in front of her, expression unreadable and eyes pinched in something like discomfort.

While Quinn is surprised by her arrival, she doesn't startle. Just sighs, exhausted by all of this. Especially after her talk with Lena.

Rachel isn't supposed to be here. Not if she was here yesterday, and Quinn doesn't know what to make of it.

"That's two days in a row," Quinn comments. "That's new."

Rachel ignores her in favour of asking, "Who was that?"

Quinn's brow furrows. "Who?"

"That woman," Rachel says, tilting her head slightly. "The one you were just saying goodbye to."

If Quinn didn't know any better, she would wonder if Rachel was jealous. Maybe she is, in some abstract way. In that way that Quinn is hers, but not the other way around. But she's not allowed to be jealous, because Rachel has made herself perfectly clear numerous times.

Quinn is very aware of what they are to each other: nothing. She doesn't want to start a fight, but it's important to clear up that she has absolutely no romantic interest in Lena, so she says, "She's a friend," and hates how unimportant it makes Lena sound. She's both more and less than that.

Still, Rachel's eyebrows lift at the distinction. "Just a friend?"

"What?" Quinn shoots back; "worried I have more friends like you?" It's maybe petty, but Quinn knows Lena has a point. She does deserve more, and it's time she started asking for it.

"We're not friends," Rachel says, immediate and firm, and Quinn didn't think hearing the truth from Rachel's lips would hurt this much. Maybe she should have pushed to go with Lena to Ireland. She could have squeezed into one of her suitcases if necessary.

"You're right," Quinn agrees, and then steps around Rachel to head up to her room. Maybe a long nap will do her some good. She didn't get much sleep, endlessly worried about Lena, and then diving into talking about emotions with Lena always manages to sap her of energy.

Rachel doesn't immediately follow, but Quinn knows she will. It's unhealthy and dangerous, sure, but Rachel is in whatever this mess is as much as Quinn is.

But it's going to have to end.

Quinn can't keep doing this.

Not like this.

Not when she's spent the better part of the past few years loving a girl who might be standing here with Quinn right now, but she'll never truly be hers.

Quinn knows this. She's known it for years; even before Finn was gone. Rachel Berry will never be Quinn's and it's time she accepts that.

Quinn suddenly stops walking, turns to face Rachel and says, "You know what, fuck you." It comes out as more of a hiss, because she's so sick of this. "You just show up out of the blue, not even a text to say you're coming, for the second day in a row, and then you have the nerve to question who my friends are or how I live my life.

"What bullshit is that, Rachel? What is all of this, then? What is it to you? What am I to you? You say we're not friends, then what are we, huh? Because, as much as you've wilfully ignored everything between us, you and I both know I want and deserve more than the way you've been treating me."

Predictably, Rachel doesn't have any kind of response, and it just angers Quinn further.

"And, since you asked, that woman is Lena, and she has been there for me when the lot of you decided to fuck off."

Rachel blinks several times, and Quinn hates that she finds it adorable.

"We met in Gotham City, because we're both part of that adoption scam they've dubbed Operation Ellis," Quinn blurts, and Rachel's eyes widen. "That's what I was doing. When Finn died and I was out of reach; when you all thought I was living it up and purposefully ignoring such a life-changing thing; it was because I was dealing with the fact I'm actually adopted and I have no idea who my biological family is and I'll probably never know.

"So, there," she says. "You got what you wanted, right? It's why you came here in the first place. You wanted to know why I wasn't there, and now you know. It wasn't your fault. I didn't stay away because of you, so you can take your misplaced jealousy and shove it somewhere else, because you have no right to any of it." She puffs out a breath. "You don't get to have all of me, Rachel. Not like this. Not when you can't even look me in the eye whenever we're together. Not when you treat me like you don't know how I feel about you."

Rachel says nothing in response; just continues to stare at her like she can't make sense of any of Quinn's words.

With an annoyed huff, Quinn turns to march away once more, but then Rachel is reaching for her, hands on her arms, along her shoulders and cupping the back of her neck. All a ploy to delay the meaning in Quinn's confessions.

"Quinn," Rachel murmurs, and it's a plea, an apology and a request all in one.

Quinn doesn't sigh, as much as she wants to. "This is two days in a row," she points out once more, because that seems significant, for some reason.

"I know," Rachel softly says. "I came anyway."

"Why?"

Rachel looks right into her eyes when she says, "I wanted to see you." Then: "Also, I missed you."

It's the moment Quinn realises that's the way Rachel tells her everything she doesn't know how to say.


The trip reminds her of Lena's first flight to Gotham City after reading Kara's first letter. She experiences the same anticipation and confusion, keen for answers but nervous to find them.

But it's different in the fact she knows she has Quinn in her pocket and Jess' support. It also helps that Kara is aware, while still not being entirely aware.

It isn't Lena's first time in Ireland. She accompanied her father on a business trip once, and then a further two times when Lex became CEO of LuthorCorp. It's been quite a few years since her last visit, and she wonders if this trip is categorised as pleasure rather than business.

Maybe both.

It's late in Ireland when Lena eventually arrives, but her jet lag keeps her awake in her hotel room long enough that she works herself through various horrific scenarios about meeting her maternal grandmother.

What if the woman is disappointed?

Quinn calls her ridiculous, of course, and even manages to sound cute about it. Quinn also tells her, completely out of the blue, that Lena is the type of friend she's always needed.

Lena can't understand why if feels odd having Quinn call her that. They are friends, of course, but there's something about the term that doesn't quite fit them, and it's a feeling she's had from the very beginning. She's been drawn to Quinn for reasons she can't explain, but she knows the girl is important.

It's also the most reckless she's been in her relationships since the debacle that was the Superfriends. It's not that she's not worried Quinn will hurt her in some way, no. Nothing like that. It's that she knows Quinn is the most real when she's around her, dark and broody and sad and cheeky and self-deprecating and childish and so stupid and young. That kind of hurt would be worth it, really, because at least Lena wouldn't be blindsided by the fact it's unexpected.

Quinn: I also told Rachel about Operation Ellis. I wasn't sure what to expect from her, but it was good. I think. She was good. We talked a little. I don't know what's going to happen now, but you were right. I want more, so I'm going to ask for it.

Lena's both proud and terrified, and she tells Quinn so.

All Quinn sends back is a yellow heart and a snapped picture of herself holding up her one thumb.

Which, yeah.

Lena's exhaustion finally catches up to her at two o'clock in the morning, and she sleeps fitfully for a few hours before her alarm is ringing and the new day is upon her. She's nervous as she gets ready, having to do her mascara twice when it turns out awful the first time.

The car drives her to Avon Springs Village, and she's met by a woman who introduces herself as Phoebe Sherman. Her smile is bright as she shakes Lena's hand, looking a little in awe. "It's just amazing that Liz is getting all these visitors," she says, and Lena doesn't take the time to think about what that means.

Liz.

Lena breathes deeply as Phoebe leads Lena through the main building, pointing to a few of the rooms as they walk past. There's a library and a recreation room. There's a small kitchenette to make tea and coffee, and a blue lounge they use for quiet time.

The Village, itself, has smaller self-catering houses spread through the property, but there are older, less independent tenants living in the main building. Like Liz.

"This way," Phoebe says, turning into a corridor. "She's in her room at the moment. There was a lot of excitement during her visit yesterday."

Lena thinks she should ask about that, but then they're arriving at an open door. Phoebe knocks on the wood, anyway, and then pokes her head inside. "Liz, there's someone here to see you," Phoebe says.

There is no response, but Phoebe waves Lena forward and she forces herself to step into the open doorway.

Coming face-to-face with Elizabeth Kieran.

Lena's maternal grandmother.

A woman Lena didn't even know existed until she opened Kara's latest letter and read the words on the page. A woman Lena doesn't remember and wouldn't be able to recognise in the street. A woman who takes one look at her and says -

"Ella."

Lena's brain screeches to a halt.

In a single moment, with the sound of one word, Lena knows - knows - this woman is someone to her. Because, until this moment, Lena couldn't recall her own mother's name. Now, she knows with absolute certainty that it was Ella.

"Ella," Elizabeth - Liz - says again. She's sitting in an armchair, wrapped in a red cloak that looks warm and soft to the touch. She's older than Lena imagined. Frail-looking. Thin and trembling, and Lena hates that she's missed so much time.

"This is Lena," Phoebe corrects, stepping into the room. "She's come to visit you."

"She looks so much like my Ella," Liz says, smiling at Lena. "Just as beautiful."

Lena told herself she wouldn't cry. It would be unbecoming, and what reason does she have to cry, really? It's not as if she's just meeting her long-lost grandmother after believing nobody in her bloodline remained. And definitely not because all this information - this opportunity - is courtesy of Kara.

God.

Phoebe looks at Lena, eyes a little concerned. "She's lucid," she assures her, as if that's a thing she doesn't want Lena worrying about. "Very sharp for a woman her age, but she can get a little confused. Likes to call people by their mother's names, though Ella - "

"Was my mother," Lena says, voice cracking at the admission.

"Oh." Phoebe smiles, wide and without ill-intent. "Oh, wow, you're - "

"Yes."

Phoebe stares at her for another moment, as if she can't even believe it. "That's the best news I think we could get," she says, and then seems to hold her tongue, swallowing her next words.

Lena doesn't know what she's holding back, but she feels the need to explain herself. "I didn't even know she was anywhere to be found," Lena admits, needing Phoebe to know that Liz's family didn't just abandon her here. Lena wouldn't have just done that if she had known.

Phoebe nods as if she understands. "You don't have to explain to me," she says, gently patting Lena's arm. "As long as you're here now."

Lena blinks, because this still doesn't feel real. This woman is her grandmother. "I didn't know," she makes sure to say.

Phoebe nods. "Why don't you and Liz have a chat, and then you and I can talk about the last few years when you're ready, okay?"

Lena nods numbly, and then steps forward. Towards Liz.

Liz, who smiles with her dentures and says, "Ella," again. "You have her eyes."

Lena won't cry.

As much as she wants to.

Instead, Lena settles herself in the chair beside Liz's, both of them facing the window. The sky is a lot gloomy, rain in the forecast, but Lena doesn't care. She's sitting beside her grandmother, and that's all there is to it.

Lena isn't really sure what to ask, so it really helps that Liz doesn't need any prompting. She just dives into story after story, jumping through timelines and taking for granted Lena knows whom or what she's talking about.

It's okay, though. Lena's a quick study.


"Will you go on a date with me?"

Quinn regrets asking the question as soon as the words leave her mouth. Rachel tenses against her, going completely still, and Quinn braces herself for the rejection she should expect with closed eyes and a clenched jaw.

It never comes.

Rachel kisses the skin above her heart once, twice, and then says, "When did you have in mind?"

Well.

Okay.

Quinn hasn't actually thought that far ahead, because she honestly didn't think she'd get this far. "Um. This weekend. Are you free?" It strikes Quinn deeply that she doesn't even know Rachel's schedule.

"I'm working a shift at the diner Friday evening, but I'm free all of Saturday," Rachel says, lips ghosting over Quinn's skin, up towards her collarbone. "What did you have in mind?"

Quinn knows she's taking a chance when she says, "Maybe I can come to New York for the day and we can do something there."

Rachel doesn't freeze up, which is a positive, but she does stop what she's doing and sit up. Her legs cross in front of her, turning her body to face Quinn, and Quinn gets momentarily distracted by the sight of her breasts.

"Quinn," she starts, "you have to know I would love nothing more than to do that." She runs a hand through her hair, gently releasing some of the tangles. It's not fair how beautiful she is, really, because it almost makes the heartbreak worse. "I want to show you my school and my work and my home and my favourite karaoke bar and my favourite spot in Central Park."

"But?"

"But I don't tell anyone where I'm going when I leave for New Haven for a reason," she says, merely confirming what Quinn already knows. "They just wouldn't understand."

Quinn won't try to reason with her, because she's convinced whoever 'they' are won't ever understand. Quinn hasn't reactivated any of her social media, and she has no plans to do so any time soon. Her life is already complicated enough without inviting on that type of scrutiny, and it's actually been less stressful without people having access to her via the internet.

"Where do they think you're going then?" Quinn asks, constantly saying words she immediately regrets.

"They're convinced I'm having some kind of illicit affair," Rachel reveals, rolling her eyes a little.

"Well," Quinn murmurs, "they're not entirely wrong."

Rachel lets out a heavy sigh, shifting her body until she's straddling Quinn's hips, the duvet pooled at her waist. She rests her palms on Quinn abdomen, skin warm. "You're not illicit, and you're not an affair."

"No, I'm just the dirty little secret."

Rachel immediately covers Quinn's mouth with her right hand. "Shut up," she says. "Stop talking. I hate it when you do that."

Quinn stares up at her. "Do what?" she mumbles against Rachel's hand, barely coherent.

"Pretend you don't know just how important you are to me."

It's the most confusing part, Quinn reckons, that Rachel can say words like that right after claiming nobody will ever know they're together this way. What is Quinn supposed to do with that?

Quinn licks at Rachel's palm until she squirms and giggles, taking her hand away and wiping it on the sheet. "We don't have to go to any of your usual places in New York," Quinn suggests. "It's a big city. Aren't there like eight million people or something? I just - I want to experience some part of New York with you, even if it's not your usual, everyday New York."

Rachel seems to consider it carefully, the cogwheels turning in her head. Finally, she says, "Okay, Quinn." Leans forward to kiss Quinn's mouth. "We'll do that." Then: "I can't wait."

It's perhaps the first time she kisses Quinn like she actually means it.

Chapter Text

v. if you ever, ever, ever need a break (i got a house in an old town on the lake)

It's on Day Three that Liz first mentions her other regular visitor, Alura. Lena registers the oddness of the name, but there's no mistaking the way Liz lights up when she talks about the other woman, and Lena has to curb her rush of jealousy.

All in all, Lena hasn't learned much more than she already knew. Liz is lucid, but it's difficult to maintain a single, flowing conversation with her when she randomly brings up memories from times before Lena's mother was even born.

What Lena does learn is that Ella Kieran was born to older parents Christian and Elizabeth Kieran in 1972. She was an only child of only children, attended an all-girls boarding school a few towns away, but didn't quite make it to university. She met a boy, apparently, and he took her to America, where he promptly left her.

There is no name, but Lena gets the feeling this 'boy' is her biological father. Maybe Lena could find him, going back and searching flight records at the time her mother supposedly made the trip, but she's not sure she wants to.

Lionel Luthor might just be an acceptable father, given everything.

Nothing rings familiar about any of the stories to Lena, as if there's just some mental block related to that time in her life. Almost like there's a specific keyword she needs to hear to unlock it all.

Maybe she doesn't want to know. She's proved to herself that she can wilfully ignore many things that are right in front of her.

"You would like her," Liz says, nodding slowly as she alludes to this Alura once more. "Very smiley. Like sunshine. Would match your dark and gloomy well."

Lena laughs, because Liz isn't a woman afraid to say what's on her mind. "Maybe I'll meet her when she next visits," she offers, though she's not sure she means it.

"You're going to love her," Liz says. "She'll make you smile. Maybe give you all those kisses you young people are always looking for."

Lena shakes her head, not even bothering to wonder how Liz could even know she's interested in women. She just has this way, apparently. "No, thank you," Lena says, anyway. "I'm definitely not looking for anything with anyone right now." Especially not in Ireland, which is so far from home. Especially not with someone who isn't -

Well.

Liz nods as if she understands. "Your heart got broken," she guesses, which is maybe an understatement at this point. She rather just gave every part of herself to someone who only ever gave her bits and pieces in return, in some misguided attempt to protect her.

But, sure, her heart got broken.

Liz reaches for her hand and gently squeezes. "Meet my Alura, and she'll mend it," she says. "Her heart is too pure to break anyone else's."

Lena doesn't believe that for a second, because even the purest of hearts are capable of hurt provided they can justify it with all the right reasons. She has enough experience with that, but she's trying not to think about Kara. Not today.

Not when she has her grandmother right in front of her; a woman who knows her as Ella's daughter, but has not yet claimed her as granddaughter. A woman who seems to accept her, regardless.

Lena hasn't given much thought to how long she's going to be in Ireland, but it's long enough that one of her visits coincides with Alura's.

Lena should know.

If she just stopped for a second and really thought about it; it would all make sense. Because she knows Kara is the one who found Elizabeth Kieran. Kara is the one who made sure every family record was legitimate, so it remains to reason that Kara would want to meet Liz first.

But, Lena doesn't think about any of that, because her very genius brain tends to shut off whenever Kara is concerned.

Because, two days later, during the time Alura visits Liz every week, Lena walks into Liz's room to find none other than Kara Danvers giggling with Liz as they play a game of solitaire together.

Lena freezes at the same time Kara does, but Liz just looks delighted to see her. "Ah, there you are," she says. "Come meet Alura. Alura, I was just telling you about Ella. Isn't she beautiful?"

Kara, to her credit, doesn't give away that anything is amiss when she looks at Liz and very quietly says, "She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

Liz beams at Kara, and Lena is so tempted to walk right out of the room and come back later. When Kara is gone; when Lena doesn't have to look at her and have to deal with all her complicated feelings in this moment.

Kara blinks once, twice, and then gets to her feet. She stumbles a little, knocking the table with their cards, and Liz yelps. "Sorry," Kara says to her. Then to Lena, she says, "Sorry," again, and then she's leaving. Sliding right past Lena's form at a speed a little too fast to be strictly human, and Lena catches a whiff of her Kara scent. It has her reaching out before she can stop herself, fingers catching Kara's wrist.

It stings when Kara flinches away from the contact, as if she knows whatever comes out of Lena's mouth next is bound to hurt her.

Before today, Kara wouldn't have been wrong, but Lena is feeling a lot of feelings right now and she can't deny the truth that she's missed Kara. Missed her so much that seeing her now, so unexpectedly, hurts in a desperate, heartbreaking way.

"Sorry," Kara says again. "I didn't - Jess didn't tell me you were here."

Lena knows there are many, many things she could say in this moment, but what ends up coming out of her mouth is constantly surprising them both. "Your mother's name is Alura."

Kara blinks, caught off guard. "It is," she finally says. "I tried to explain to Liz that it's not actually my name, but she seems kind of set on calling me by my - "

"Mother's name, yeah," Lena says. "She does that."

"Ella," Kara says, and it makes it all the more real when Kara says it. As if it couldn't have been true until Kara was the one to acknowledge it.

"My mother's name," Lena says, still trying to wrap her head around the truth of this all. It's still unbelievable. Surreal in a way that she could pinch herself and open her eyes to find herself still seated in her office in National City.

Kara smiles genuinely for the first time. It's there for just a moment, before it fades, and the reality of their lives comes crashing down on them. Kara steps back, away. "Please apologise to Liz for me," she says. "And tell her I'll see her again same time next week."

And then she's gone, disappearing before Lena can think of a response. Anything to keep her here. Something that could make everything just stop hurting. Just for a little while.

Lena watches the space she's just vacated for a long, long while. Until Liz calls out, "Ella," and Lena moves into her room to find her grandmother looking a little shaken. "We didn't finish our game," she says, deep frown on her face. "We always finish our game."

Lena feels guilt settle in her chest, aching for more reasons than the loss of her best friend. Now, she's taken something away from Liz, as well. "She had an emergency," Lena explains. "Asked me to tell you goodbye, and she'll see you next week."

"You talked?" Liz asks, and then smiles. "She's lovely, isn't she? Eyes like my Christian, when he was young. Full of dreams; the desire to help everyone but themselves."

Lena audibly swallows, not wanting to think about the grandfather she never met or about Kara's eyes that sometimes haunt her dreams. Make her wish for things she'll never have and will never deserve.

Lena moves to take the seat Kara vacated, and very carefully steers Liz away from the topic of Alura. She rather asks about Liz's own youth, and learns that her grandmother was something of a maverick back in her day.

Though, from all she's been told already, that isn't much of a surprise.

As much as she can avoid Liz talking about Kara, she can't escape it when Phoebe mentions her as Lena is leaving the Village for the evening. Phoebe catches her on her way out, smiling warmly. The woman is kind and caring, and Lena makes a mental note to make some anonymous donations to the facility and some of the surrounding areas. Maybe Phoebe deserves a vacation, as well.

"I see you met Kara," Phoebe says, falling into step beside Lena.

And, well, Lena has to feign confusion, because she's not supposed to know Kara's real name, is she? "Who?"

"Oh, right, yes, I mean Alura," Phoebe says with a slight roll of her eyes. "Her real name is Kara, by the way. Claims to be American, but there's an odd accent to her words."

Lena doesn't tell her it's probably because Kara's mouth wasn't designed for the languages of Earth.

"She's been coming by for a few weeks," Phoebe explains. "Even before she met Liz. Always just volunteers her time. She helped us with a few repairs in the roof. I know she doesn't look it, but she's certainly handy."

Lena is definitely not going to allow herself to think about Kara's hands or just how good she is with them. What strikes Lena the most is that Kara has been coming here for weeks, taking time out of her admittedly busy week to visit the grandmother of the woman who continues not to want to speak to her.

It's when Phoebe mentions that Kara makes a point to stop in with all the other residents - particularly the ones who don't receive regular visitors - that Lena knows she was always fighting a losing battle. As enraged by the betrayal as Lena sometimes still is, the part that really just frustrates her is that she knows she's already forgiven Kara.

Hates just how easy it was.

It's one of the reasons she's never been able to ask herself if she would be able to forgive Lex - at least of his sins against her. Still, it's something she knows she can speak to Quinn about, because Quinn seems to see every part of her and match it with her own.

Lena: Guess who I bumped into today.

Lena: Kara.

Lena: She was here, just casually chatting to my grandmother like they're old friends, and I still don't know how to feel about it. She didn't even know I was here. We barely said any words to each other, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Again, Lena doesn't quite think about what exactly she's telling Quinn, because Kara equals brain-shut-off for her. How is she supposed to explain just how Kara got here, or why she would even come?

She gets a burst of texts from Quinn that, well -

Quinn: Holy shit!

Quinn: Let me get this straight (Hah)… Kara was in Ireland visiting your grandmother without you even knowing? Like, properly took time out of her life to fly to a different continent to visit a woman who is the only link to you… without your even being aware of it? COME ON.

Quinn: Lena, I don't know what shit went down between the two of you, but that isn't just run-of-the-mill friend behaviour. I would know.

Quinn: I would totally do the same for Rachel, and I'm 100% in love with her.

It's really the last thing Lena needs to hear. Her little, battered heart can't quite handle what any of that could possibly mean, and she really wishes Quinn would take her words back.

Lena: 100% is a certainty, Quinn.

Quinn: 99%, at least.

Lena sighs in relief.

Quinn will give her this respite, just for as long as she thinks Lena needs it. Then she'll probably bring it up and prompt a conversation for which Lena's not convinced she'll ever be ready. It's what they do for each other.

Lena: So you're in love?

Quinn: It's gross just how much. We're going on an actual date this weekend. In New York. I'm a little scared it will be too weird for us and just end up ruining everything, but I can't keep going the way we've been going. I want more. You were right. I deserve more, so I asked for it.

As nice as it feels to hear Quinn say she's right, Lena can't help her worry. She wants it all to work out, of course, because the last thing she wants is for Quinn to get hurt, but there's an inevitability about the entire situation that Lena recognises she experienced with Kara.

They were always going to break, and it still hurts all these months later. It's the last thing she wants for Quinn, but she accepts that it might have to happen. She'll just have to be there for her if it does.

When it does.

Maybe that thought is the reason she sends the text she sends next. Switching message threads to Kara's contact, she sees a lot of one-sided blue. Lena's heart jolts a little as she types out her message, wondering if she's actually ready for what this means.

If Quinn is going to be brave, maybe Lena can be, too.

Lena: I honestly don't know how you have the patience to play solitaire. Please say you're going to be back to finish your game with Liz before your next scheduled visit, because she made it very clear I'm very bad at it.

As out of the blue as the message must be, it's the one place Lena feels most comfortable. Talking about Liz. Things unrelated to them. They don't have to hash out all their own baggage quite yet.

Lena gets a reply barely a minute later, and she's not even going to think about what that means.

Kara: We're all bad at it, Lena. She definitely has more patience than I do, which probably explains why she's always winning.

Kara: Please tell her I'll see her on Tuesday 😇


Rachel meets her at Grand Central Station with a single white gardenia and a gentle kiss to her cheek. It's enough to make Quinn want to stay in the moment forever, but Rachel immediately links their arms together and starts them walking.

Apparently, they have a lot to see today.

Quinn already has a ticket booked for the second last train to New Haven in the evening, and she thought it was the best option for them. A deadline on their date. That way, neither of them will be tempted to push whatever first date boundary they haven't quite discussed.

Quinn just tells herself no sex, and then allows Rachel to drag her all over the city. Rachel is so different here, brighter and younger and so perfect that Quinn aches with how much she wants her just like this.

They ride the subway right out of Manhattan, Rachel growing more touchy the further they get from her usual haunts. She settles into their date, leaning into Quinn and pointing out things as they move past them.

They're walking hand-in-hand in front of a music store when Quinn asks, "What is your dream date?" She's more curious than anything, wondering if she could make it happen one day, if not today.

Rachel brings them to a stop, absently peeking into the store at all the music instruments on display. "What makes you think I'm not currently on it?" she asks, not quite looking at Quinn.

"Because we're nowhere near Broadway," Quinn points out, keeping her tone purposefully light.

And Quinn isn't naïve enough to think what they're doing right now is peak romance. They're just walking down a street in Brooklyn, browsing the stores and looking for a place to get a late lunch.

It's nice, of course, but Quinn knows this isn't what they would normally be doing if the two of them weren't currently involved in something of which Rachel's people would disapprove. Even Quinn's friends don't know the true extent of what they've been doing, because Quinn knows it's not good for her.

Rachel tugs on her hand, pulling her closer. "As much as I love a good Broadway show, I don't think it'd be my dream date," she admits. "I just - I think I'd like to do something we both genuinely enjoy. A mashup of our interests. Maybe a singing bookstore, or one of those poetry jams." She grins at Quinn, eyes bright. "But I'm also pretty content with staying in, you know? Cooking dinner together, a good board game, maybe a movie. Definitely making out on the couch, possibly sneaking onto the roof to watch the sunset together." She hums to herself, nodding once. "Yeah. That sounds pretty perfect."

Quinn makes a mental note to move out of her residence as soon as possible, just to be able to exist in that moment with her one day. She's going to need a roof she can get access to. "Your dream date… would be with me?" she asks, and hates that she even has to.

Rachel's expression gets impossibly sad for a moment, but then she smiles, soft and true. "Of course, Quinn," she says. "I'm already on a close second with you right now." She lifts onto her toes and kisses her cheek. "Now, come on, let's go inside, they look like they have sheet music and I'm thinking of changing my song for the showcase."

Quinn allows herself to be pulled inside, smiling all the while. It feels so easy to exist this way. If she can just set aside their complicated past, present and future, they can be these people they could actually be.

They could be happy.

Their entire day together merely solidifies the idea in Quinn's mind, which she knows is dangerous. It will hurt her if this doesn't work out, but she's choosing to be optimistic about it. Imagine that. Rachel looks as if she's enjoying herself, at least.

They get lunch, probably eating way too much, and then they take a slow walk through a modern art museum. Rachel holds her hand or keeps their arms linked the entire time, never straying too far. She doesn't get excited by the art, but she does appear fascinated enough that she says very little.

Quinn is mainly fascinated by her. She mentioned to Lena that she's in love, and this entire day proves it. She's been in love for months, maybe even years, and now Rachel is here with her. Quinn gets to experience this taste of her, and she knows they could have this.

They could be something great.

And yet.

The thing is that Quinn knows better.

There's a part of her that's always known it. Rachel could never be hers, not while Finn was alive, and definitely not now that he's dead. While they've never really talked about anything the way they should have, Quinn is distinctly aware that Rachel is plagued by more than just her guilt. It's definitely more complicated than just that.

Maybe it's too soon. Maybe they're just not meant to be, but Quinn knows she couldn't keep going the way they were.

Maybe a lot of things.

When the day is over and Quinn has to get back to the Station for her train, a decision seems to have been made. Silently. They stand waiting on Quinn's platform, facing each other, and Quinn knows in her heart of hearts that this is not their time. They might never get a time, but it's definitely not now.

Rachel kisses her gently, mouths pressed together right on the platform, and Quinn can't help the ache and longing that is a constant in her chest. It feels bigger today, in this moment.

Rachel is still smiling when she pulls back, but there's just this look in her eye that sparks unexplained fear in Quinn's heart. "Let me know when you get home, okay?" she says, which eases some of Quinn's panic.

"Okay," Quinn tells her, searching her face for what's really going through her mind. "Okay."

Rachel's smile is softer now. "Thank you for today, Quinn," she whispers. "It was a good day. I'm glad we did it."

There's something in her voice. Just something that's not quite right, and Quinn doesn't even know which question to ask to figure out what's wrong.

Because it was a good day.

It was perfect in so many ways.

Postponing her panic, Quinn just pulls her into a hug and holds on as if she knows nothing is going to be the same again. Holds her as tight as she can, eyes closed and heart pounding.

She only releases Rachel when her train is called for the second time, and then she's looking into eyes she's desperate to memorise. Taking in every feature of Rachel's face and trying to commit them to memory.

Because when Quinn boards that train on a cold Saturday evening, she just knows she's not going to see Rachel again.


As if Lena needs further reason to be thinking about Kara, Liz keeps mentioning Alura. Every chance she gets, really, and Lena has half a mind to call Kara just to get her to come visit earlier so Liz can stop.

It also definitely doesn't help Lena that all Quinn tells her about her date with Rachel is that it went okay. That's all Lena gets, which is basically Quinn-speak for it didn't go as planned and I don't want to talk about it yet.

Lena knows she can't just pop out to New Haven the way she usually would at a time like this, but she's also aware that Quinn is about to go on her Winter Break and Lena wants to spend it with her. It's probably overstepping quite severely, but Lena has stopped second-guessing herself when it comes to Quinn.

Perhaps her overt hesitance and care in her friendship with Kara added to the fact she couldn't come clean with her earlier, but that's something they would need to talk about.

When Lena makes the request of Jess, her assistant makes no comment. Just asks for clarification, and then makes it happen, which basically ensures her a larger Christmas bonus than she was already getting.

It's two days of Quinn dodging Lena's questions when Quinn finally calls her and says, "Um, why is there an email in my inbox telling me to be at a private air strip the last day of my Finals?"

Lena smiles to herself. "Well, I usually head your way when you're not being forthcoming, but I've decided you can come to me, now."

Quinn is silent for long, long moments, and Lena momentarily panics that she's actually overstepped. Quinn might have other plans already.

But then Quinn very quietly says, "She doesn't want me," and Lena knows she's made the right choice in making sure Quinn comes to her.

"I'll meet you at the airport," Lena tells her. "You'll be able to drink legally this side of the pond."

"Priorities, huh?"

"Maybe I just miss you."

Quinn hums. "Maybe."

"Pack for the cold," she says. "It's freezing here."

"Colder than New Haven?"

"Definitely."

"Wow, you're really selling Ireland to me, you know?"

Lena laughs, realising this is what she needed today. Especially when she knows Kara is expected to be visiting later today. Liz. Kara's coming to visit Liz.

"Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"I know we still have to talk about it, but I just need to ask if it was worth it?" Lena asks. "Trying for more? Taking that chance? Asking for what you deserve?"

Quinn breathes out slowly. "I don't know," she admits quietly. "I did only two of those things, anyway. Maybe we really should have just talked about it before, you know, um - "

"Ripping each other's clothes off?"

Quinn laughs, just a little dark. "The short-term fix, or something," she says. "I should probably go back to therapy."

"Perhaps."

There's a moment of quiet that Lena now associates with Quinn. "It was, though."

"What?"

"Worth it." She breathes out, heavy and tired. "It fucking hurts now, but maybe I can finally move on from all of this. I've spent so long waiting for her, not knowing if anything would ever come of it. And then it did, and it didn't work out, and it's better that I know."

"Is it?"

Quinn hesitates before answering. "I don't think I'm quite there yet, but I know I will be," she says. "I have a lot going for me, apparently."

"Oh?"

"My mother emailed me yesterday," Quinn tells her. "She wants to see me. Over Christmas."

Lena's heart rate rises, though she can't be sure why.

"I miss her," Quinn confesses quietly, as if she's worried about what Lena will think of the admission.

"Of course you do, Quinn," Lena says. "You're allowed to."

"Maybe I'll go to Sacramento when I get back from Ireland," she muses. "Or, you reckon a Lochness Monster might hold me captive while I'm there."

"They're not real, Quinn."

"Are you really trying to tell me that, when we live in a world full of aliens, Lena?" Quinn asks, and it's the first time they've really touched on the topic of aliens aside from the allusion to Supergirl while Quinn was in National City.

It unsettles Lena slightly. She doesn't want Quinn to have some terrible opinion about their existence, though she realises she's worried for nothing when Quinn just keeps speaking. "Though, I'd totally let the LM keep me if it could actually fly, you know? I'm an Aquarian, you see? Love the air."

Quinn is very weird, perhaps, but she's good and kind and has a very odd sense of humour. Lena's known for a while, but this is the moment she accepts it for what it is. Lena loves her. It's in a way she's not quite used to, but she's very sure of it, all of a sudden.

"I hate flying," Lena tells her in return. "One of the worst things, really. It's one of the reasons I've dedicated so much time and money to figuring out teleportation."

"Oh my God, yes," Quinn squeaks. "Travel would be so much easier that way. We could go wherever, whenever. Like in that movie Jumper."

Talking to Quinn is always a good experience for Lena, and Quinn really helps keep her mind off of Kara right until the moment Lena hears Liz squeal, "Alura, you're here!" from down the hall.

Lena hastily ends her call with Quinn, wishing her luck for her last few exams, and then she returns to Liz's room. It's a little baffling that Kara managed to get to the room without Lena seeing, but then she's forced to remember Kara can come in wherever and whenever she wants.

She's Supergirl, too.

But she's just Kara today. Alura. A smiling blonde woman with bright, kind eyes who comes to the Village to play solitaire with an elderly lady, and then slow dance with Peter in the room next door.

How could Lena have not fallen for her? She really never stood a chance. It also doesn't help that Liz keeps making eyes at Lena whenever Kara does anything. Literally anything. Even just laughing.

Lena will admit that it's a lovely laugh. She would enjoy it all that bit more if she weren't so uncomfortably aware of just how wide a berth Kara gives her. Kara's very obviously here for everyone but Lena, and it is still painful that Kara keeps giving Lena exactly what she asked for.

Which is fine.

Lena is so very fine with it.

Except that she's not.

Not even a little bit, and she doesn't know how to get that across without confusing herself, and Kara.

At the end of her visit, Kara gives Liz a warm hug before she leaves, but merely waves at Lena. It's a kind one, soft and so very Kara, but then she's gone and Lena is left no better than she was some hours ago.

It doesn't help that Liz very pointedly says, "I told you that you'd like her." Which is something of an understatement at this point. If ever Lena was going to kid herself about her feelings, it's all moot now. Lena knows, and Quinn knows, and now Liz knows.

Maybe even Kara knows.

Lena's almost tempted to ask her when Kara unexpectedly returns on Thursday, intending on surprising Liz with a set of playing cards she picked up in Paris. What she finds instead is Lena standing near the window in Liz's otherwise vacant room and staring out into the dark sky.

Lena isn't surprised she's here, turning enough to be able to see her. Even like this, Kara offers comfort merely by showing up. Her presence has always been comforting if Lena allows it to be.

"Hey," Kara says, standing perfectly still in the doorway and not quite looking in Lena's direction.

Despite everything, it really is so good to see Kara. In the flesh. Right in front of her, a slight flush to her cheeks and such concern and wariness in her expression. In her eyes.

"Hey," Lena says in response, heart rate rising already. She wonders if Kara can hear it for only a moment, because those blue eyes widen in alarm.

"Um."

"Liz had a bit of a rough night," Lena explains when Kara peeks into the room and doesn't see the older woman. "She's chosen to spend her morning on the daybed in the blue lounge."

Worry immediately clouds Kara's features. "Is she okay?"

"Just some nightmares," Lena explains. "I'm sure she would love to see you, though. I get the feeling you would succeed in making her feel better."

Kara doesn't move. "Are you okay?" she asks, quiet and hesitant. "You look as if you had a rough night, as well."

Lena shrugs. "Every night is a rough night, Kara," she murmurs. But even she has to admit she's concerned about everyone but herself. Quinn is meant to be arriving the next evening, and Lena finds herself missing the teenager rather painfully.

"Oh." Kara drops her gaze. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Are you?"

Kara opens her mouth, and then immediately closes it. Lena knows it's an unfair question, but she can't help herself, sometimes. It's almost her default now.

"How do you sleep?" Lena asks after a moment.

Kara's gaze snaps back up. "Um." She fiddles with the buttons of her shirt. "I don't, not really. Only when it's necessary."

"Is that why you're here when it's the middle of the night back home?" she asks.

"Yes, and no."

Lena turns fully to face her. "Why are you here, Kara?"

"For Liz," Kara says, and neither of them believes her. That can't be all of it.

"Is that all?"

When Kara looks at her, she looks conflicted. It's another question that isn't exactly fair, and Lena can only wonder when she'll stop asking them - or when Kara will start answering them.

Kara takes a step back. "I'm here to see Liz," she says, "so I should see her."

Lena can't watch her turn away, so she looks away first, expecting to hear Kara's footsteps leading away.

It's silent.

Lena looks back, and Kara is still standing there. "Kara?"

She doesn't say anything for a moment, but Lena knows what she ends up saying is going to be important. "If you want me to stop visiting her, then you should just tell me."

"I - " she immediately starts, and then stops. "I don't want that."

"Okay," Kara says with a nod. "Is there something you do want?"

Oh, God, so many things.

Kara raises her eyebrows, which means Lena said those words out loud. "What things?" she asks.

"I want you to keep visiting Liz."

"Okay."

"I also want you to visit me," Lena finds herself saying. "If that's what you want."

Kara looks at her with obvious disbelief. "Yeah?"

Lena nods, firm. "If that's what you also want," she repeats.

"Lena," Kara says, her tone of voice fond and hesitant. "I would love nothing more than to spend time with you. You know that."

"But?"

Kara fiddles with the hem of her blazer now. "But I don't think it's in either of our best interest to do that if you're not willing to try with me." She leans forward, almost imploring Lena to understand what she's trying to say. "I don't think I can go through it again, if I'm going to be the only one trying. I haven't managed to recover from the last time."

"Kara."

She looks up, eyes hopeful.

"I'm ready now."

"Yeah?"

Lena smiles at her, small but present, and it feels genuine. "Yeah."

"Okay." Kara's grin is almost blinding. "Okay, yeah, that's - awesome, okay." She backs up, bumping into the doorframe and actually denting the metal frame. "Whoops." Her eyes are comically wide. "I can fix that."

Lena can't contain her own smile. "Kara."

"I'm okay," she assures. "Just, you know, that's - wow, okay."

"Kara."

"I'll see you on Saturday," she rushes out. "Is Saturday okay? I can do Saturday. Does that work for you?"

Lena spares a thought for Quinn, who will probably be sleeping off her jet lag, and then nods. "Saturday works."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, Kara."


When Frannie asks for Quinn's flight number to Sacramento, Quinn carefully avoids giving a response and just assures her sister that she'll find her way to her house once she arrives in the city - whenever she arrives. The aim is to head West some time between Christmas and New Year's, but she hasn't decided when.

Frannie accepts it, because they've just managed to have a conversation without one of them saying something awkward. "You are coming, right?"

Quinn hums her consent. "I'm coming, Frannie," she says anyway, finalising her packing for her upcoming trip to Ireland. "I miss my nephews."

"Just them?"

Quinn tosses another few pairs of socks into her suitcase. "I miss your husband, too."

"Oh, my God, you're an idiot."

Quinn grins, alone in her room, and then asks, "How's Mom?"

"Have you talked to her?"

"On the phone?"

"I'm guessing that's a no," Frannie says, sighing. "She's okay. Most of the time. She just misses you."

"Just her?"

"Your nephews, too."

Quinn laughs. "Now you see where I get it from," she says, and expects the silence that follows to be awkward, which it is. "Frannie?"

"Lucille?"

"I hate it when you call me that."

"I know."

Quinn stands perfectly still on the carpet of her bedroom, steeling herself to say her next words. They're important, even if she's saying them over the phone. "You did it wrong."

"What?"

"The way you told me," Quinn says, "you did it wrong."

Frannie takes a slow breath. "Yeah. I know. I'm sorry."

Quinn turns to look out her window, slight frown on her face. There isn't any snow expected quite yet, but the sky looks ominous. At least she's done with her exams before pathetic fallacy kicks in.

"Hey," Frannie says, getting her attention.

"Yeah?"

"I miss you, too," Frannie tells her, and it feels like the beginning of something important. Something big and real, and maybe they can all recover from all of this.

Quinn doesn't really do optimism, but she feels it. A little.

At least one part of her personal life seems to be on the up and up. Whatever she has going on with Rachel, not so much. Quinn hasn't heard from her beyond the final text she sent the night of their date.

I can't do this. I thought I could, but I can't. I'm sorry.

It's the end of what they had and what they could have had, and it's taken everything Quinn has not to demand more of an explanation. It probably counts as something she got anything from Rachel at all, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

Because it does. There is an ache in her chest, carved out of the grip Rachel still has on her heart, and she doesn't know how she was meant to come out of this unscathed.

Quinn knows there wasn't ever going to be a good time to start anything of significance with Rachel, but she also knows it's better to have tried and failed. It's just going to take some time to get over it all.

Maybe Quinn wears her heartbreak more visibly than she thought, because Lena drags her into a hug the second she sees her. Apparently they hug now, and Quinn is very happy for it.

"Do I look terrible?" Quinn asks, unsure she wants to hear the answer.

"Horrendous."

She laughs, more relieved than anything to be in Lena's presence. She represents some form of comfort, and Quinn hugs her even tighter, just because she can.

It almost feels like coming home.


Okay, so maybe 'horrendous' is a bit of an exaggeration, but the sentiment remains. Quinn doesn't look good. She looks tired and thin and there are dark circles under her eyes. It must be a combination of writing Finals and the situation with Rachel, but it doesn't make Lena worry any less.

The plan is simple. Feed Quinn, get her into bed, and then force her to sleep.

The problem is Quinn doesn't adhere to this plan.

She does eat, which is a win, but then she wants to hear everything Lena has learned about her mother, grandmother and the rest of her Irish family. Lena allows it for just a few minutes, which is all it takes for Quinn to pass out on the couch of Lena's rental house, despite the time difference.

She's very cute, all curled up, and Lena debates with herself whether she should wake her and guide her to an actual bed. In the end, she decides against it - Quinn doesn't look that uncomfortable - and rather spends the rest of the evening panicking about seeing Kara the next day.

And about introducing Quinn to Liz. She almost wants to skip the entire thing entirely, because Quinn wakes with a stiff back and a severe case of the grumps. Coffee helps, but only just, and she has a long shower to work out the tension in her muscles enough to function properly.

"I'm ready," Quinn eventually declares once she's eaten the last bite of her toast. "I feel like a human being once more."

"You don't look it."

Quinn shoots her an unimpressed look. "Look, I know I'm a little prickly this morning, but I - "

"What?"

"It's Rachel's birthday."

Lena really doesn't know how to respond to that bit of information. "Um."

"It's also the night of her showcase," Quinn adds, shaking her head. "I need to be distracted enough that I don't call her and say something embarrassing, okay?"

Lena eyes her carefully, hearing what Quinn is asking for and trying to decide if she's willing to give it. "Okay."

"So. You know." She clears her throat. "Can we go and meet your grandmother, please?" she says. "This is literally the coolest thing."

Lena does know, but she also knows not everyone will get to have something like this. "Are you sure?" she asks.

"One hundred percent."

"Such certainty."

Quinn shrugs. "Maybe ninety-nine," she says. "But she's a part of you, the way you're a part of her. Of course I want to meet her."

It settles some of Lena's concern, but even she couldn't have predicted the way the meeting would go. Never in a million years could she have guessed how it would all play out, like something out of a film. A freaking fairytale.

Because when they walk into Liz's room less than an hour later, Liz takes only one look at Quinn, and then says, "Ella," with all the conviction she says it when she's looking at Lena.

It's the moment Lena just knows.

Knows it as clear as she knows her own heartbeat. Knows why Quinn has managed to break through into her life without even trying. Knows without a doubt that Liz hasn't made a mistake.

She's been very consistent at calling people by their mother's names.

Quinn looks at Lena, clearly confused, and it's as if Lena is seeing her for the first time. The arch of her eyebrows and the angle of her nose. It's familiar, and this is the moment she realises it's because they're so similar to her own.

"Lena?" Quinn says, looking bemused. "Did you tell her my name is Ella?" she asks.

"No," Lena says, finding her voice. "It's just something she does. Calls people by their mother's name."

"Oh." Quinn's forehead crinkles rather adorably. "But my mom's name is Judy."

Lena steps closer to her, hand reaching out. "Oh, Quinn," she says, light and still in a bit of disbelief. Maybe she should have submitted her DNA to the Operation Ellis database, after all. They probably could have figured this out a long time ago if she had.

Quinn just looks even more confused, frowning at the way Lena's fingers barely brush her shoulder. "What are you doing?" she asks. "Lena, what's going on? Who's Ella?"

"My mother," Lena says at the same time Liz says, "My daughter."

Quinn looks even more lost. "Um, that's great," she says, "but what does that have to do with me?"

Lena can't stop herself. Can't contain the desire, because suddenly everything makes so much more sense. She wraps her arms around Quinn, hugging her in a way they're both aware she hasn't before. This hug is meant to last. To heal.

Quinn hugs her back after a moment, warm and solid and still very confused. "Lena, what's happening?" she whispers, clearly realising something has changed.

Lena isn't sure how to explain without just blurting it out, which is why she's relieved when Liz says, "My mother's name was Lucille," to nobody in particular. She's looking out the window, as if recalling some distant memory.

Quinn turns to look at her, deeper crease in her brow. Her mind is obviously racing, trying to figure it out.

"Ella always liked that name," Liz adds, lost in the memory. "But Lena insisted on Lucy." It is the first time Liz has even said Lena's name out loud. And she's paired it with Quinn's.

A memory hits her square in the chest, a gasp escaping, almost making her stumble. Quinn glances over, concerned, but Lena -

Lena remembers now.

Because Quinn is Lucy. Of course she's Lucy. That just explains everything Lena has been feeling towards her. A kinship, almost. Like she's family.

Because she is.

Oh, God.

Lena stares at her like she's seeing someone new, the memory taking form in her mind and reminding her that there was a ridiculous song she made up for Lucy. When she was still in her mother's womb.

Oh, Lucy Lucy, I'm your big sister now, so you don't get to be choosy.

It was a horrible song, and she's embarrassed for her four-year-old self, but she used to sing it all the time; used to drive her mother nuts with how often the song would leave her lips.

Even after -

Lena blinks.

Even after the hospital and the tall lady who tried to take Lucy away, and after the lady said their mother didn't want them anymore; didn't love them anymore. After they went somewhere new and Lucy was pried out of her arms, both of them screaming and crying.

After.

Lena's hug tightens, and Quinn actually squeaks. "Lena, what's going on?" she breathes out. "Why are you shaking? God, why does it feel as if you're about to cry?"

Lena releases her just enough to be able to look into her eyes, the colour remarkably similar to her own. "Oh, Lucy Lucy," she whispers, the song coming back to her. "I'm your big sister now, so you don't get to be choosy."


"Whoa."

Lena just keeps looking at her, eyes slightly teary.

"Whoa."

Lena's mouth ticks into a small smile. "Is that all you're going to say?" she asks, slightly amused.

Quinn nods. "Whoa."

Lena reaches for her closer hand, squeezing the fingers. "Are you okay?"

Quinn just stares at her, taking in every feature of her face. The nose. It's her nose. It's her nose. "Whoa."

"Quinn?"

"Whoa."

"You're really going to have to say something else, dear," Lena says, looking slightly concerned.

Quinn blinks slowly. "Are you sure?" she finally asks, finding some other words.

Lena tilts her head. "Scientifically, no," she admits. "I'd have to run a blood test to be certain, but I just - I feel it." She bites her lip. "Don't you?"

If Quinn is being honest, she hasn't quite allowed herself to think too hard about Lena and what her arrival has brought to her own life. Diving too deep into thoughts like that tends to reveal things Quinn isn't ready for.

Now look at them.

But she can't deny the familiarity of Lena, in one of those abstract senses. If their records are to be believed, they were together for only one month of Quinn's life, separated from their mother, but housed in the same facility until they were both separately adopted. Quinn has no memory of this, for obvious reasons, and Lena is only starting to recall things now.

Still, Quinn can't deny that she feels it, too.

The two of them are still sitting there, quiet and contemplative, when Kara walks past the open door to the little room they're in, and all three of them freeze. Kara's eyes land on their clasped hands, and Quinn panics for only a moment before Lena's fingers tighten around her own.

"Kara," Lena says, and Quinn watches them carefully. Her feelings at this moment are a lot out of whack, but she can't even imagine adding on Lena's and Kara's. "You're here."

Kara nods slowly. "It is Saturday."

"Of course," Lena says, a small smile on her face.

Kara looks between them. "I didn't mean to interrupt," she says. "I was just - "

"It's okay," Quinn says, managing a smile. "It's nice to see you, Kara."

"Is it?" Kara asks, and she looks only slightly amused. "Pretty sure you were ready to set me on fire the last time we saw each other."

Quinn's smile grows. "Nah," she says, "I'm not a fire person; more air."

Kara glances at Lena, who is staring at her. "Throw me into space, then?"

Quinn shrugs. "I'd probably go with you," she murmurs. "Space is awesome."

"It can be," Kara easily agrees.

The silence that follows isn't exactly comfortable, the three of them just existing. Quinn gets the feeling she's in the middle of something much bigger than she ever thought, hidden meaning in their words.

It's broken by the sound of Lena's phone ringing, and they all startle. Lena puffs out a breath before she reaches for it, looking at the screen. "It's Jess," she says, frowning. "I should probably take this." Then she's up on her feet and leaving the room, sliding past Kara and leaving both blondes watching after her.

Kara looks at Quinn. "I really didn't mean to interrupt," she says. "It looked like you were talking about something serious."

Quinn reasons Kara should probably know about their familial ties, but what ends up coming out of her mouth is, "I'm nursing a broken heart."

Kara blinks, taking a small step into the room. "Oh?"

"The love of my life doesn't want anything to do with me," Quinn says, which might be a tad dramatic to say, but it's how she feels right now. She meets Kara's gaze. "I suppose you know a thing or two about that, hmm?"

Kara doesn't look away, but she doesn't confirm or deny it.

"What are you doing here, Kara?" Quinn asks her, because Quinn's presence can be explained, but Kara's is doubly confusing.

"I told Liz I would be here on Saturday."

"And you just happened to be in Ireland?"

Kara presses her lips together, and Quinn just knows the woman is about to lie to her. "I'm actually covering a launch in Dublin," she says. "Thought I would pay Liz a visit while I was close by."

"Just Liz?"

Kara finally looks away. It's an unfair question, Quinn knows, but Kara still responds. "She's usually the only one who wants to see me," she whispers, mainly to herself.

"Do you really believe that?"

Kara doesn't get a chance to reply, because Lena comes back into the room, looking troubled. "Sorry about that," she says. "Jess and I are dealing with a bit of a crisis."

"Anything I can help with?" Quinn immediately offers.

Lena's expressions softens, her right hand gentle over Quinn's hair. Quinn can't help leaning into the touch, and she doesn't even care how it looks to anyone who could see. "No, we'll sort it out, but thank you, dear."

Quinn grins at her, and then says, "I was just telling Kara that I'm nursing one of those pesky broken hearts we all know so much about."

Lena retakes her seat, and then very slowly says, "Come sit, Kara, maybe we can help."

Kara takes a seat opposite Lena so quickly that Quinn barely blinks and she's already in position. It'd be funny if it weren't so baffling, and Quinn stares at her in disbelief.

Kara just flushes a deep red and Lena lets out the kind of laugh that's full of secrets and amusement.

"Um."

Quinn looks between them, wondering what's changed between them that Lena hasn't told her. They seem… not hostile. More than civil, even. It's weird. Wonderful, definitely, but so very strange, based on Quinn's memory of the last time she saw them together.

Quinn has never seen that look on Lena's face. It's soft and sad and unburdened and longing and just a lot of things that Quinn is starting to realise relate to only Kara.

Kara leans forward, clears her throat, and asks, "What seems to be the problem?" like a complete dork.

Quinn finds herself smiling. "Just some girl who says she can't be with me the way I want."

Kara looks very comically serious. "And how do you feel about that?"

Quinn shakes her head, laughing when Lena does. "Truthfully?"

Kara nods, earnest, and Quinn can see why Lena would refer to her as a puppy. "I want to help any way I can."

Quinn glances at Lena for some form of assurance and she gets a gentle nod. "Well, Kara, truthfully, I feel pretty terrible. But also relieved. Like, I knew this thing about myself that I needed her to know, and so I told her."

"Well, did you?" Lena interrupts. "I mean, did you actually tell her how you feel about her?"

Quinn shrinks a little. "I - not explicitly," she says. "But I don't know how I'm supposed to tell her I'm in love with her when we couldn't even get through one actual date without imploding."

"You don't think she deserves to know?" Lena asks, and Quinn realises they might actually be talking about something else completely.

"Um. Maybe." She clears her throat. "But I also think it's not up to me to figure out what someone deserves. If she wanted to know how I felt, she would have stayed long enough to find out."

It's Kara who asks, "If it were the other way around, would you want you to do anything differently?"

Quinn sits back, mulling it over and definitely not missing the very significant eye contact between Lena and Kara. It's almost indecent. Eventually, she says, "No."

"No?"

"I think I understand her hangups, which is why it's best not to push for more," Quinn says. "The ship has well and truly sailed, and it's better I know. I'm just glad I now know."

If she says it enough times, maybe she'll believe it.


Kara stays as long as she's able to, easily distracting Quinn from her romantic woes, charming Liz as usual, and making it difficult for Lena to remain unaffected by her presence.

Lena did ask for Kara to visit her, so, before she leaves, she asks if Lena would take a short walk with her. Avon Springs Village boasts a beautiful garden with some lovely walking paths, and Lena agrees after just the slightest uptick in the beating of her heart.

If Kara notices, she makes no mention of it.

The start of their walk is quiet, just the sound of their footsteps and the occasional animal somewhere in the bushes. Lena doesn't feel the need to speak, weirdly enjoying the opportunity just to exist with Kara.

They'll build up to it, maybe.

It is Kara who breaks the silence, though, when they've made the mutual decision to start on their return leg. She slows her pace and says, "Your heartbeats have the same rhythm."

Lena blinks. "Excuse me?"

"You and Quinn," Kara clarifies. "I don't think it means anything, but your heartbeats have a similar rhythm."

Lena stops walking, and Kara does the same. "Has - does that even happen?"

"Sometimes," Kara says. "It's not common, I don't think. I don't know a lot about human anatomy, but I think it's a subconscious thing. Somehow, you've settled into this good rapport, where your hearts can actually beat in sync when you're both relaxed."

"Huh."

Kara looks away, visibly debating something. "I'm a little jealous, actually."

"Oh?"

"And just a little irritated."

"Oh?"

"Because I have your heartbeat memorised, and I can find it easily in a sea of heartbeats," Kara explains, "but now there's another one that's so remarkably similar, and I can't know which one I'm listening to when you're together."

Lena just stares at her.

"Which sounds really creepy now that I've said it out loud," Kara says, looking horrified. "Wow. Is that like an invasion of privacy? I feel like it is. Okay, jeez, that's - I'm sorry. I just - the sound, it's comforting to me, and I just - I think I should stop now before I really -

"Kara."

Her mouth snaps shut.

Lena smiles. "It's okay."

"It is?"

"I mean, it's more okay now that I know," she says. "But, yes, it's okay." She resumes their walk, already certain Kara will stop herself from saying another word for the rest of their walk. Which is why she whispers, "And you have nothing to be jealous of," and laughs when Kara actually trips over a rock.

Chapter Text

vi. what if i told you the sky wouldn't fall if you lost your composure?

Quinn feels obliged to tease Lena about Kara, which is exactly what she does. She even imitates her Kara-Laugh, as she's dubbed it, and exaggerates the fluttering of her eyelashes until Lena actually puts her hand in her face and gently pushes her away.

"God, you really are an annoying little sister, aren't you?" Lena says, holding onto her amusement until she sees the look that must be on Quinn's face.

Quinn leans back, back in the spot she slept, a slight crease in her brow. "I am," she agrees quietly. "I'm your annoying little sister."

Lena sets her phone aside and looks at her. "Do you want me to run a test to confirm it?" she asks.

"Yes."

Lena's face falls. "Oh."

"Not for me," Quinn tells her immediately. "I just - in the grand scheme of life, I think it would make things easier if we had solid proof."

"Of course." Her expression pinches, and then relaxes. And then pinches again. "But we should keep it private," she says. "I can't - oh, God, what if they find out about you?"

"What? Who?"

Lena goes still. "Quinn, you do realise my mother is the leader of a group of terrorists determined to rid the world of aliens, right?" She turns her head. "And I am one of those people standing in the way of her accomplishing that goal. Which makes me a target. Which makes you a target."

"Lena," Quinn forces out, needing her to stop her spiral into whatever that is. "Just take a breath, please. We don't have to worry about any of that right now, okay? We're here, in Ireland, with our grandmother; I don't want to worry about our American lives right now."

"Quinn."

"Tell me about our mother," Quinn says, as a distraction, sure, but she also really wants to know about this woman of whom she was sure she would never even learn the name.

Lena looks at her the way she did when she first realised whom they really are to each other: like she's seeing her for the first time. "Our mother," she echoes. "Ella."

"Ella," Quinn repeats.

Lena manages a smile. "Liz hasn't been able to tell me much about her after she had us, but Phoebe - you met her this morning - was able to fill in some things for me that she's learned over the last decade and more." Her expression shifts, growing sad. "Whoever my father is left her when they got to America. She says he wasn't Irish, but she doesn't know where he is now. Just that he sold her dreams of becoming a singer in Nashville, and then she was left alone in Tennessee with a baby on the way and no plan." She looks down at her hands. "I wish I could remember. I wish I had more memories, so I could share them with you. All I really know is she was soft and warm and beautiful and she had a lovely voice. She did all she could for both of us."

Quinn closes her eyes, heart aching.

"I think she was too proud to come back here at first," Lena says. "Which might explain a lot about the both of us." She laughs softly, and Quinn opens her eyes. "She stayed in America, trying to make it work alone. I've found a bit more, now that I have a name, and I found things like a waitressing job she had, and a room she rented for a few months when I was around two years old. I know it's not a lot, but I almost want to go to Memphis to see what more I can find."

"Maybe we can go together," Quinn offers, and Lena is so glad she's here. So very glad she exists, at all.

"I don't know a lot about who your father could be," Lena says. "I didn't even - there was no indication you existed until - "

"Today."

Lena nods, looking a little troubled. "Phoebe doesn't know much about what happened next beyond the horror story that I was taken from her by someone pretending to be from social services, and she spent the next few years looking for me - or us, I guess. But then Liz had a bad fall and she finally came home. She wasn't the same, and Liz needed more help than she could give, which is how she ended up at Avon Springs."

Quinn can sense what happened next. It's in every line of Lena's face, a truth that's devastating enough that Quinn almost asks her not to say it out loud.

"They say she drowned," Lena whispers, but they both know better. "I think that's what they say, so she could be buried through the church," she adds.

"Do you know where she's buried?" Quinn asks.

"Not too far from here," Lena tells her. "I haven't been able to go."

"Maybe we can go together," Quinn offers for the second time tonight.

Lena reaches for her hand, squeezing her fingers and not trying to say anything more. The two of them just sit quietly in this new reality and absorb what it means for them going forward.

"Hey," Quinn says, breaking their silence, "you know what I just realised?"

"What?"

"My daughter and my grandmother have the same name," she says, a little bit in wonder.

Would you look at that?


Christmas in Ireland is like nothing Lena has ever experienced before.

The lead-up to the day is, predictably, cold, but she's immensely glad Quinn is here for it. They have a full week to visit some Irish sights, spend time with Liz, and carefully avoid bringing up possibly visiting their mother's grave.

Liz does it for them when she says, "I want to see Ella." Which is how the three of them find themselves on their first excursion together, all of them piling into Lena's rental car.

It's the first time Quinn tells her that she doesn't drive.

Lena doesn't really drive, either, but it's not for any actual decision she's made. She just does a lot of work while in cars, and she's had Frank in her life for so long that she can't imagine her everyday grind without him. He even moved with his wife and youngest son to National City when Lena did, his older children already out of the house.

Quinn once mentioned her car accident, but it's not something they've properly discussed. Lena isn't aware of the how and the when, but she has an idea of how serious.

After.

She'll ask about it after they've paid their respects. After they've met their mother and reintroduced themselves.

Lena hasn't really thought about this part. As a child, she dreamed of her biological family, a mother and father that existed somewhere in the world. She wondered if they missed her, but Lillian made it clear that whomever she came from didn't want her. Nobody truly did.

Not until Kara, at least, but she's trying not to think about that today.

Liz knows exactly where her daughter's grave is. Phoebe mentioned they've brought her here a few times over the years, so Liz gets out of the car, latches onto Quinn's arm and guides them all to a modest tombstone marking the one remaining thing Lena will have of her mother: her resting place.

Lena doesn't expect to feel as emotional as she does, but being there and seeing Ella Kieran's name in block letters fills Lena with the kind of pain and loss and just how unfair it is that it is paralysing.

But Liz is holding onto Quinn already, and Lena wishes - wishes with all her might - that Kara were here. She would know what to do and say and how to act, and she would be there if Lena just reached out.

A gentle hand at her back jostles her out of her thoughts, and she turns to see Quinn, a soft look of concern on her face. It strikes Lena as odd that Quinn can recognise when Lena needs this kind of comfort. It strikes her even more as strange that Quinn, who is younger than Lena, is offering this to her.

As far as Lena has known, she has always been the little sister. But now she has one of her own, and she's not sure she's going to be good at it: being the older one.

Maybe, one day, she can ask Alex about it, because she went from being an only child to having a younger sister during some of her own formative years. Granted, the start of that relationship didn't go so well from what Lena's heard, and the last thing Lena wants is to mess this up with Quinn.

They stay a while.

It's cold and a bit wet, the grass is a blinding green, and it's very, very quiet. Lena wishes someone would talk, just to fill the silence. It feels ghostly, just standing there, imagining how much their lives would be different if Quinn and Lena had come to Ireland and actually found their mother alive and well.

Lena wonders if she would be proud of the woman she's becoming, or if she would be disappointed with how Lena has lived her life. If she would have wanted Lena to love and trust more and easier, and just be less Luthor-y.

Well, Lena already wants those things for herself.

Quinn calls time to their visit when Liz begins to shiver, and it takes Lena another moment to agree. Quinn seems to realise she needs a few minutes to herself, so she offers a small smile, and then starts leading Liz back to the car.

Lena watches them go for a moment, and then turns back to the tombstone. It's chipping a little, and Lena makes a note to get it touched up or even replaced with something more durable.

Ella Marianne Kieran

Loving daughter and mother

Lena reads the words out loud, putting them into the Universe, because it needs to remember that she was a mother. With two daughters, who might have just learned of her identity, but have wished to know her ever since.

She spent so many years looking for her children, until she just couldn't anymore, and now they're here. They're here, come back to her. If Lena were any other person, she might find it all pointless to learn of what she's already lost.

But Lena is Lena, and she knows how important this moment is. For her past, present, and future.

With a last look, a whispered I found Lucy, Mother, and I brought her back to you, Lena turns around and walks away. Towards Lucy, who is waiting for her.


Kara's next visit is two days after Christmas, and she actually spends the most time with Quinn. At this point, Quinn doesn't even question what she's doing here or even how she's here. Quinn doesn't even wonder if she went home for the holiday, and just spent it somewhere in Ireland.

Quinn just doesn't ask.

She also isn't sure how it happens that they're left together, but Lena is still dealing with some L-Corp crisis that she won't accept help with, Liz spends the afternoon on the daybed in the blue lounge, and Quinn realises that she and Kara are actually interested in similar things.

Writing, mainly. And Lena. Food. The air. Human and alien rights. Lena, again.

It's obvious to Quinn all Kara really wants to talk about is Lena, but Quinn isn't willing to divulge anything she's not sure Lena will allow.

"You can ask about me," Quinn tells her. "Not about Lena. Not from me."

Kara fidgets, Quinn's learned, even as she sits at the table with her, elderly people filling the recreation room with steady chatter. Quinn has her laptop open in front of her as she attempts to work on some holiday work in preparation for her next semester.

As far as her academics are concerned, Quinn has steadied the ship after those two weeks near the start of the semester. It would have been easy to let everything that's happened get the best of her, but she's even more grateful to Lena for all her help ensuring she's maintained her GPA.

"Oh. Um." Kara seems to take the invitation very seriously. "How old are you?"

Quinn can't help her smile. "That's really where you want to start?"

Kara nods, ever serious.

"I'm nineteen," Quinn tells her. "My birthday's in February."

"Do you live in National City?"

"Nope."

Kara eyes her. "Where do you live, then?"

"Technically, I live in Sacramento with my mom," Quinn says, though the second bedroom at her mother's year-old Sacramento apartment hasn't really been dubbed her bedroom, even if she's the only one who stays in it. "She moved there last year to be closer to my sister and her family."

"Older sister?"

Quinn nods. "Her name is Frannie."

"I have an older sister, too," Kara tells her. "Alex. She's probably my favourite person in the world."

"Is she?"

Kara's blush is sudden and unstoppable. "Maybe my second," she quietly admits. "But don't tell Alex that."

Quinn doesn't know when or if she'll ever meet Kara's older sister, but Quinn is definitely going to mention it to her. "I'm not very close with mine," she admits. "She's seven years older than me, so I was always annoying when she was trying to be cool, and then she left for college and we just never were able to become something, you know?"

Kara nods as if she understands. "I have a cousin like that," she explains. "A lot older than me. It's as if we don't know how to talk to each other."

"Exactly. Like we're speaking entirely different languages."

Kara continues to nod. "Are you multilingual?"

Quinn winces. "As multilingual as my standard high school education makes me," she says. "I took French, but my best friend spoke enough Spanish at me that I think I could hold a decent conversation. I wish I knew more, though. Are you multilingual?"

"I know a few," Kara says. "Languages fascinate me. The way they can relate to culture. It's one of the last things a people can lose."

There's inexplicable sadness in her voice, which tells a tale Quinn isn't privy to. "Why did you pick journalism, then?" Quinn asks.

Kara blinks, as if coming out of a painful memory. "Would you believe me if I told you it has a little something to do with Lena?"

"Absolutely."

Kara laughs, warm and real, and Quinn can see how someone like Kara could blindside a person. Lena definitely must not have seen it coming. "She was part of it, truly," she says. "We met when I was at a bit of a professional crossroads. I had choices to make. I was trying to figure out whom I was, decide if I was going to be brave enough to take a chance on something I wouldn't have chosen normally."

"And then you did?"

"And then I did."

"And?"

"And it was kind of horrible at first," Kara says. "My boss is literally the worst. I'm still convinced he hates me, and I don't even think he knows my name."

"Wow."

"But I do enjoy what I do," she adds. "A seeker of truth, almost. Making sure the people of the world are informed."

"So, what's with all the science stuff?"

Kara freezes for a moment, and then sighs. "Lena, mainly, but it's also how I feel close to my father."

"Oh?"

"He was a scientist," Kara says. "So was Jeremiah."

"Jeremiah?"

"My adoptive father."

She says it so easily, with no hesitance and no shame. Quinn is still getting used to the idea that she was adopted, and here's another person right in front of her just wearing it as if it's just another part of her. "You were also adopted?"

Kara nods. "We should start our own club."

Quinn can't help thinking of Rachel, who is also, technically, adopted. Wow. What a quartet they would make. "We should," she murmurs.

Kara tilts her head slightly. "Still not quite okay with it?"

"I haven't been able to talk to my mom about any of it," she says. "We just exchange recipes and she sends me pictures of my nephews. It still just - part of me wishes I didn't know, but the other part is relieved for it."

"That's probably a feeling that won't go away," Kara advises. "Part of me wishes I had no memories of my parents, but then another part of me is relieved that I have something to remember, even if it's something I'll forget one day."

That's the part that gives Quinn some comfort that she was too young to remember Ella or Lena, from before. "I'm sorry," she tells her, full of meaning.

"I'm sorry, too," Kara says. "For a lot of things."

Quinn lifts her eyebrows. "Does that include hurting Lena?"

"I - yes," she says. "I think I'll be apologising for that for a long time. But I - " she presses her lips together. "I don't know what she told you."

"Just that you kept something massive from her, blindsiding her in all the worst ways, because you're the one person she managed to let in as far as she did, and you still struck her where it hurt the most," Quinn says.

Kara's eyes are wide.

"I think it's that she didn't see it coming that bothers her the most," Quinn says, and maybe this is how she can help. If Kara knows how they were broken, maybe she'll know how to fix it. "It hurt, whatever it was, and she obviously doesn't do well with betrayal, which I wouldn't really say anyone does. But I'm convinced the part that makes her want to lash out is that she's been played a fool, and she's embarrassed that she didn't see it, at all. She's proud, I know you know, and I think part of her feels really, just, dumb that she didn't see it."

Kara blinks, caught off guard. "Are you sure you don't know?"

Quinn frowns. "Um. I don't think so." She shrugs. "I do have my theories, though."

"Oh?"

"But none of them make sense the more I get to know Lena," Quinn concludes. "She's almost the most accepting person I've ever met. I just know, whatever it was, I wish it didn't happen."

Kara touches her glasses, gently pushing them up her nose. "I think it was always going to," she murmurs.

"I think Lena does, too."

"Yeah."

And maybe Quinn is being a little shit when she says her next words, but she's a romantic, if not an optimist. "There does seem to be something inevitable about the two of you, indeed."

Kara's smile is small and hopeful, and Quinn prays she's right. "Yeah," she says again, and Quinn needs a change in topic before it can get awkward.

"Actually , maybe you can help me," Quinn says, "I'm trying to convince Lena to come spend New Year's in Sacramento with me and my family, but she's resisting."

Kara raises her eyebrows. "What makes you think I could help you with that?"

Quinn's voice is very serious when she says, "I think we both know you are the only person in the world who could convince Lena to do anything."

Kara tries and fails to dispute it, which is immensely amusing to Quinn.

Even more so when Quinn brings it up to Lena when she joins them, inviting Kara to chip in with her thoughts on the idea, and Lena ends up easily agreeing to Quinn's repeated suggestion.

Quinn can't contain her smugness, and Kara makes a point of not looking at her.


Lena knows this is a bad idea.

She also knows Quinn knows it's a bad idea, but they're here, and Lena also knows this is what Quinn needs in this moment.

Though, it really is quite a big thing to bring your long-lost sister to your reunion with your estranged family. Quinn won't introduce her that way, but it's likely someone is going to recognise her as Lena Luthor.

In the end, it doesn't quite matter.

Quinn's mother is living in a two-bedroom apartment not too far from the home Frannie shares with her husband and two young sons. That's where they'll be staying for the duration of their visit.

It's immediately made clear to Lena that Quinn did not tell her mother she was bringing a friend, merely based on the deer-in-headlights look on Judy's face when Lena walks in behind Quinn.

Quinn, who very stiffly opens by saying, "Mom, this is Lena, a good friend of mine, she'll be staying with us, hope that's okay," and then ducks into what must be her bedroom to deposit her duffel bag.

Lena allows herself only a moment of awkwardness before she holds out her hand for Judy to shake.

To her credit, she does so after only a beat, schooling her features enough to smile politely, and it's the first part of her that really resembles Quinn beyond the hair. "Nice to meet you, Lena," she says. "You'll have to excuse me, Quinn didn't mention she was bringing a guest."

"That's because she wasn't, initially," Lena says. "That's my fault. She's just very against my spending the new year alone."

"Oh." Her features soften. "Well, any friend of Quinn's is a friend of ours." She pauses deliberately. "You are just a friend, right? Because then she's going to be sleeping on the couch."

It takes a moment for the meaning of her question to sink in, and Lena's eyes widen, almost choking on the breath she takes. "Oh. No. Wow, just friends. Definitely."

Judy eyes her critically. "Okay then," she says. "Why don't you get settled in? Dinner should be ready in about half an hour. Send Quinn to me once she's stewed, would you? I'd really like a hug from my daughter." And then she turns to head to the kitchen.

Lena doesn't waste a moment even looking around before she slips into the room Quinn went into and finds her lying on the bed, her feet still on the ground. As if she just sat on the end, and then flopped back. Her eyes are closed, fingers tapping on her abdomen, and Lena recognises the action as something she's done before.

"I can't believe you just left me with your mother," Lena says to her, unable to decide if she's actually irritated.

"You were fine," Quinn murmurs.

"She's obviously missed you, Quinn."

"So?"

"At least say hello to her," Lena says, rolling her suitcase further into the room. "She hasn't seen you since the summer."

"I thought I was fine," Quinn says. "I thought I could handle it, but - "

"But what?"

"But I walked through the door and saw her, and I couldn't stop myself from remembering she's the same woman who just stood and watched as my father kicked me out of my home," she says. "This woman, who - if she wanted me so badly, why would she - it just doesn't make sense to me."

Lena moves to sit beside her, managing to squeeze in on her left side on the queen-sized bed. "I think these are things you'll be able to talk to her about," she tells her. "This is a conversation you can have with her, so I think you should."

Quinn opens only one eye to peek at her. "You're staying, right?"

Lena nods. "Of course," she assures. "Though, you didn't tell me your mother knew you were gay."

Quinn sits up so abruptly that Lena very nearly falls right off the bed. "What?" she practically shrieks, hands reaching out to keep Lena from hitting the deck. "What did you just say?"

Lena stares at her in alarm, heartbeat skyrocketing from her near-fall. "Quinn, does you mother not know?"

"What? Of course not. Lena, what the hell?" She looks panicked beyond anything Lena has seen before. "Why would you even say that?"

"You've never told her?"

"Are you insane?" And now she's up on her feet, looking legitimately spooked. "Why did you say that?"

"Quinn, you need to breathe for me," Lena says. "Just breathe. I'm sorry, okay? I just thought - she asked me if I was just a friend, and then seemed to imply that you would have to sleep on the couch if I wasn't."

"What!"

Lena actually flinches at the volume, but Quinn doesn't seem to notice. Lost in her own head as she processes what Lena's just told her. "Hey," Lena says. "It's okay."

Quinn's head snaps towards her. "It is so far from okay," she says. "I haven't - what happens - this isn't how - she can't know, Lena. She can't."

While Lena can understand the panic, she doesn't feel equipped to help Quinn through it. "Why can't she know?" she asks.

Quinn glances at the slightly ajar door. "I don't want to lose her when I just got her back," she whispers.

There is a lot Lena has learned that has hurt her, but this moment has the potential to break her. The look on Quinn's face has the power to cut into her, and it is baffling that Judy could have looked at her child this way and not done anything.

No.

That's a conversation not meant for Lena.

"I can't speak for her," Lena tells Quinn, instead. "But she seemed fine with the idea."

Quinn blinks. "She did?"

"Very."

"You're sure?"

"One hundred percent."

Quinn studies her face for another long moment, searching for something.

"Maybe ninety-nine," she offers a beat later.

Quinn just remains watching her, studying. If she finds what she's looking for, Lena doesn't know, but she does tug Lena into a quick hug, and then she's slipping out the room without another word.

Lena sends her some luck, and then fishes for her phone in her handbag. She has to check in with Jess, now that she's Stateside, and -

Well.

Kara did ask to let her know they've arrived safely, and this is one thing Lena feels comfortable enough telling her. For now. She wishes there had been a moment to signify that Lena has overcome some kind of hill, but there isn't.

Somehow, sometime, her anger bled out to apathy, to a muted longing. If asked, Lena is convinced she could have learned to survive a life without Kara. But, at some point, Lena figured out that isn't what she wants.

What she does want, though, she's still figuring out how to put into words.


It is all kinds of trippy watching Lena and Frannie interact.

Admittedly, Quinn didn't think they would have anything in common, but it's almost a relief when the two of them spark a conversation about wine - like, oh my God, can they be any more cliché? - that she doesn't have to worry about Lena when her nephews literally tackle her.

Well, as much as she'll let a two and a four-year-old actually tackle her.

Quinn ends up sprawled on the carpet in the living room, Lena and Frannie talking on the couch, Judy cooking up a storm in the kitchen and refusing help, and Frannie's husband, Maxwell, watching some football game.

Quinn's attention is split between building Lego with Ramsey and Shepherd, and keeping an ear in Lena and Frannie's conversation in case it somehow goes south. It's the only reason she hears it when Frannie says, "Though, I suppose I won't be drinking any wine for a while."

Which can mean only one thing, something deep and painful twisting in her chest.

For a moment, Quinn feels eyes on her, and then Lena is saying, "Number three, hmm?"

Quinn ducks her head, dragging Ramsey into her side and pressing a kiss to his pudgy cheek. He giggles against her, warm and solid, and it helps steady the beating of her heart.

"I don't know how to tell her," Frannie says, softer now, as if she hopes Quinn can't hear her. "I assume you know about Beth? Quinn and I were pregnant at the same time, and I didn't - there was a lot going on. Shepherd was a difficult pregnancy, and I just - it was too late to help, and I don't - she's never seemed like she wanted to talk about it."

Quinn doesn't want to hear any of this. She wants nothing to do with any of this, because Frannie has been doing a lot of things wrong for longer than Quinn even realised.

Lena, who must realise Quinn can hear, says, "If you want to know if she's willing to have this conversation, you should ask her." Her voice is firm, leaving no more room for the topic to continue down that lane. "Until then, my company has just launched an application for pregnant women, if you're interested."

Quinn buries her face in Ramsey's soft tummy, blowing a raspberry through his t-shirt and delighting in his little shriek. Feeling a little left out, Shepherd crawls over to them and presents Quinn with his Lego creation, which looks like a whale - or a truck.

It's not easy to forget what she's overheard, but then it's dinner time and they're seated around the dining table that Judy made Quinn set with tiny human beings following her around.

They really have missed her, haven't they?

Dinner isn't exactly awkward, but it's not completely comfortable either. There are secrets existing everywhere, and, as much as Quinn was able to talk to her mother about her sexuality just two days ago, Frannie still doesn't know, and then there's also Lena's new role in her life.

Maxwell helps, but also doesn't, when he asks, "So, how did you two meet?" as casually as he can. With the tone of voice that holds some kind of meaning.

Quinn exchanges a look with Lena, a silent conversation passing between them. They already decided, though, before they came to Sacramento, that they would be very truthful with this part.

"In Gotham City," Lena answers, carefully dabbing at the edges of her mouth with her napkin.

Judy, Frannie and Maxwell all look at Quinn expectantly, questions in their eyes. It's Judy who asks, "Honey, when were you in Gotham City?"

Quinn doesn't actually look at any of them when she answers, "I caught the train there the day after Frannie sent me my adoption certificate." She can't even look at her sister. "Lena and I met at a support group for other people who had their lives altered by the article and the investigation. We were both stolen from our mother and adopted by other families."

Lena is the only one who catches Quinn's use of the singular 'mother,' and she tosses her an unimpressed look. But the rest of them are silent as they take in the words Quinn's just said.

"You're part of it, too?" Judy asks.

Lena nods. "I was four when I was adopted, yes," she says. "I've always known I was, though. My mother never let me forget it."

Judy drops her gaze, growing quiet, and Quinn can't think of anything to say to make this moment any better.

Lena clears her throat. "I don't think my family made that decision with my best interest in mind, though," she says. "Feels different to how it was with Quinn."

Nobody says anything more on the subject, Maxwell deftly switching to asking Quinn about school. Which leads to friends - Quinn just mentions Amy and Poppy, her second suite mate who is basically nocturnal - and inevitably segue ways to romantic interests.

"Um."

Maxwell grins at her. "Come on," he says, "all those Yale guys, someone has to have caught your eye."

Quinn can't help her smile, because, wow, no guy has remotely caught her eye in some time now. "Nope, there's no guy, Max," she tells him. She glances at her mother, whose own eyes are twinkling like she's glad to be in on the secret.

Maybe.

Maybe Quinn will tell them about Rachel. She'll probably have to tell them something, some day, and it isn't as terrifying a prospect as she thought it would be.

This entire year has merely been further proof to her she can get through anything.


None of them drinks.

At first, Lena is aware of it in passing. If Frannie's pregnant, then of course she won't drink. Maxwell wouldn't drink in solidarity with his wife. Quinn is too young, of course, but she's never seemed interested in indulging. And Judy doesn't even go near the stuff.

None of them drinks, and Lena can't help her curiosity. It must show on her face, though, because Judy asks her to help get some fresh snacks with her in the kitchen and very quietly says, "My ex-husband and I are both alcoholics."

Lena stops trying to open the packet of crackers in her hands.

"I'm the only one of us in recovery," Judy adds after a moment. "I failed both my daughters so much during my marriage and, once I was out of it, I could see the damage we'd done, and it was easier to lose myself in the bottle than be a witness to what my parenting ended up doing to Quinn." She fiddles with a bowl of hummus on the island. "You can avoid what the truth is until someone else points it out for you, or you can see it as clear as day and acknowledge it."

Lena holds her breath.

"You have the same nose."

She doesn't release it.

"When they put her in my arms, they told me she'd been named Lucille," Judy says. "Lucy. They said it was a family name."

Lena finally breathes out. "It was," she says.

Judy manages a smile. "She was never a fan of it, though."

"'Quinn' suits her better, I think."

Judy nods, stepping forward. "I don't know how you view me, but I imagine it's nothing good," she says. "I just - thank you for being there for her through all of this. And, if you'd like it, we can be your family, too." She pauses, eyebrows rising. "I promise we won't withhold the wine."

Lena laughs. She can't help it. It's just so unexpected, and Judy looks so pleased with herself in a way that deeply resembles Quinn.

"There's no need for a response," Judy tells her. "Just know we're around, and we're trying. It's all we can really do."

Try.

It sticks in her mind that try is all Kara really wanted from her, as well. She wasn't ready before, like she told Alex, but she truly feels as if she is now. To talk to Kara; to figure out if she's ready to let her back in, in some capacity.

But, for now, she just enjoys this pseudo-family in all the ways she can. Frannie is interesting, sometimes abrasive, and talkative in a way Quinn is not. Maxwell is generally quiet, but he's a treasure trove of random and useless information that he loves to share. Shepherd enjoys using his hands to create things, and Ramsey is in that stage where he just wants to destroy things. Judy is a woman who uses acts of service to show love, and Lena now knows where Quinn gets it from.

Quinn, who spends New Year's Eve in a sulky mood that is so obviously related to Rachel that Lena is a little stumped. As much as Lena understands of the situation, Rachel hasn't been in contact since their failed date.

"It wasn't a fail."

Lena looks up, blinking at her. "What?"

"The date," Quinn says, looking over from where she's seated across from Lena as the seconds tick away to get them into the new year. "It wasn't a fail."

Lena nods slowly. "Okay."

"It was actually a success," Quinn adds, "which might have been the problem."

"Is that why you're in a mood?"

"What?"

"You're in a mood."

Quinn's brow creases. "I am?"

"Big mood."

"Oh."

"Did something happen?"

"No."

Lena watches her closely, trying to gauge if she's attempting to lie, because she'll lie just enough that Lena knows that she is. But she's not lying. Nothing has happened, which is the problem.

"Amy has been pestering me about getting coffee with this girl in her Biology class," Quinn says, glaring at her phone that sits on the coffee table. "Apparently, she's my type."

"You have a type?"

Quinn grins, nodding her head. "I think we both do," she says, "and I also think they're remarkably similar."

Lena raises her eyebrows, because that's news to her.

Quinn laughs. "I'm the only one who gets a say," she says, "because I've actually met Kara."

"And you think she's similar to Rachel?" she asks. "How so? They look nothing alike."

That definitely gets Quinn's attention, and Lena realises her mistake when she asks, "How do you even know how Rachel looks?"

"What?"

Quinn leans forward. "You've never met her," she says. "How do you know she looks nothing like Kara?"

Lena rolls her eyes. "Oh, come on, Quinn," she says. "If you really think I wasn't going to learn everything I could on the girl in your life, then you've learned nothing about me in the months we've known each other."

"Oh, my God, you little stalker."

"Don't even start."

"How long ago did you do that?" she asks, looking positively delighted by this news. "What were you even hoping to learn? Wait, Lena, were you going to go all big-sister on her?"

"To be fair, I didn't know we were related then," Lena defends, which doesn't really help her case.

"Then why would you - "

"Just because I didn't know it, doesn't mean I didn't feel it," Lena interrupts, which she barely gets to say before another voice cuts into their conversation.

Frannie's.

"You're related?"


Amy sends two pictures of herself and another girl in the time it takes Frannie to make herself a cup of tea and settle at the dining table opposite Quinn. Lena disappeared upstairs with Ramsey and Shepherd, the two of them intent on showing her the blanket fort Quinn helped them build earlier.

They're bound to fall asleep while they're up there, the excitement of the day catching up to them on the one day Frannie is allowing them to stay up past their usually strict bedtime.

Apparently, their mother has more on her mind.

"Were you going to tell me?" Frannie asks once they've been seated in silence for several minutes.

Quinn presses her lips together, forcing herself not to get irritated and pointing out that Frannie waited nineteen years of Quinn's life to tell her she wasn't even her real sister.

Frannie sighs, clearly realising she's asked the wrong question. She just can't stop doing things wrong. The next question she asks is, "Are you okay?"

"What?"

"Are you okay?" Frannie repeats. "It feels like - you've been through a lot."

Quinn almost snorts, because Frannie doesn't even know the half of it. It hits her then that she hasn't known how to talk to her sister in years. Maybe even ever.

Frannie seems to have the same problem.

Quinn learned about both previous pregnancies through their mother. Maxwell is the one who told Quinn he and Frannie were engaged. Even their father is the one who bragged about Frannie's acceptance to Harvard in front of her.

The only thing Frannie has ever told her is that she's adopted, and that was in an impersonal email.

"I have been through a lot," Quinn agrees. "More than I've ever been able to tell you."

Frannie meets her gaze. "Is that something you would like to do?" she asks. "Tell me things?"

Quinn doesn't reply immediately, taking the time to think about it. "I don't know," she says. "Is that something you would like to do?"

Frannie doesn't even hesitate. She says, "Yes," without a breath, and Quinn believes her. Even more when she says, "I'm pregnant."

Quinn sucks in a breath. "Oh?"

Frannie nods, her bottom lip trapped between her teeth. "We just got through the first trimester."

"Congratulations," Quinn says, and she means it. "Max really wants his little girl, doesn't he?"

"This is the last one," she says, shaking her head. "If it's a boy, I think I'll pull out my own hair."

"You make very cute baby boys, though," Quinn points out.

"But they're just so much work," Frannie says, groaning. "I'm exhausted."

"You currently have a growing human being leeching off of you, Fran," she points out. "You're allowed to be exhausted."

Frannie looks hesitant for a moment, but then she says, "I don't know how you went through this at fifteen."

"While I was in high school," Quinn adds. "Without my parents, without my home, without my teammates, and without my sister." Then without her boyfriend, and then without her baby's father.

Without her baby.

Frannie audibly swallows. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "Quinn, I am so sorry."

Quinn has never received an apology from Frannie, mainly because she wasn't ever sure she needed it. It angers her enough that she's as truthful as she's ever been when she says, "This family would already have a little girl if just one thing had been different."

That's the truth that really bothers Quinn. That, if she had better support at the time, Beth might -

Just.

Things would be different.

Frannie leans forward, her hands on the table. "Despite everything, I know and you know that you made the best choice for her, and for yourself, when you let her go."

And, isn't that just another thing Quinn didn't know she needed to hear from her sister?

For the first time in years, the two of them actually talk, right into the new year.


Quinn almost puts it into the Universe when she points out that Lena hasn't met Rachel, because that's exactly what happens when they're back in New Haven.

Lena doesn't mean to stay in the city at all. She wasn't even supposed to come with Quinn in the first place, but there was this look in her eye that wouldn't let Lena just leave her. As if the emotional expense of being open with her family took its toll, and so Lena joined the flight back across the country to deliver her to her suite in one piece.

So, when Quinn says, "You really didn't have to come all the way with me," Lena expects it.

"I actually have some work to do in the city," Lena tells her, which is true.

"You do?" Quinn glances over her shoulder at her, the two of them walking through the door and into the empty living room. "Am I allowed to know?"

Lena appreciates that she asks the question that way. "Not yet," she says. "I have a few things to take care of while I'm here, but maybe we can get lunch before I have to leave?"

"Look at you, jet setter," Quinn teases, moving towards her bedroom. She sounds a little lighter than she did when they were saying goodbye to Judy, which is a step in the right direction. Lena's relieved she made the right choice by coming with her, even if Frannie hadn't gently pulled her aside and asked her to.

They're both her sisters now, their mutual responsibility to help her get through things. It's why Frannie's number is currently saved in Lena's phone, their message thread already started.

Quinn opens her bedroom door, and then screams, which makes Lena scream, which makes whoever is already in Quinn's bedroom also scream.

For a terrifying moment, Lena is convinced that Lillian has found Quinn and sent someone for her, but then a very female and rather young voice is saying, "Oh, my God, I'm so sorry."

Quinn stops screaming. "Who are you?" she snaps, "And what the hell are you doing in my bedroom?"

"Um."

Lena peeks around Quinn's body to get a look at the speaker. She's a petite brunette girl, standing shyly on Quinn's carpet and looking all for the world as if she would love to be anywhere else.

"Oh, wow, and you have company," she says, blushing.

"I don't understand what's happening here," Quinn says, defensive. "Who are you?"

"Oh, right, I'm Samah," she says. "Um. Amy told me to wait in here for you."

Quinn blinks once, twice, and then says, "You're Amy's Biology friend."

"I'm Amy's Biology friend," she agrees with a nod. "And I'm just now figuring out you had no idea I would be here." Her eyes are wide. "And you have company, oh my God, this is embarrassing."

"Uh. Yeah." Quinn puffs out a breath. "Sorry. I didn't - you just surprised me."

"No, I'm sorry," Samah tells her. "I guess I took it for granted when Amy said you agreed to a coffee date. She didn't tell me you were, you know." Her hand gestures towards Lena, and they really need to put it on their foreheads that they're just -

"This is my sister," Quinn says, so easily, and Lena's heart actually stops in her chest at the sound of the words. It's the first time she's been introduced that way and she was not prepared.

"Oh."

Quinn clears her throat. "I'm going to kill Amy."

"Please don't," Samah says, laughing nervously. "She's really good at Bio, and she's the only reason I'm even passing."

Quinn laughs, relaxing slightly. "Look, um, I've just arrived from home, so this is a bit of a surprise, but - " she glances over her shoulder at Lena. "If you give me a few minutes, maybe we can grab a quick coffee, so this whole lying-in-wait thing doesn't end up a complete waste."

Samah looks as disbelieving as Lena feels at the sound of Quinn's words, but she quickly agrees, letting Quinn know she'll wait out front for her.

"Five minutes, tops," Quinn calls out, and then Samah is gone.

Lena watches Quinn set her bags on her bed, run a hand through her hair and then force herself to smile when she turns to look at Lena.

"You know you don't have to do this," Lena says.

Quinn shrugs. "I know," she says, "but Amy will just keep nagging me about it, and it'll be a way to kill time while you're doing whatever covert thing you're going to do."

"Quinn - "

"It's fine," she says, a little too casually, and they both know Lena doesn't believe her. Quinn is a lousy liar, and she's not even trying.

Lena doesn't push it. Just lets it go, realising that maybe this is what she needs in order to help her get over Rachel. What she does end up saying is, "You called me your sister."

Quinn looks at her, eyes widening. "Um, was that not okay?" she asks. "Sorry. Is that not something I should be saying? I guess I should have asked first."

While Lena agrees it's not something they should be broadcasting until Lena can get her Public Relations team on top of the situation, what she ends up saying is, "Just caught me off guard." She smiles, a bit embarrassed. "But in a good way."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Quinn glances at her watch, and then sighs. "I should probably get going," she says. "Where do you want to get lunch? Whenever you're done?"

They spend a few minutes finalising details before they go their separate ways. Lena wishes her luck, and Quinn offers the words right back to her. As if she expects Lena to spend her time doing something work-related.

It's the furthest from.

Instead, Lena meets with a real estate agent barely two minutes away to look at a three-bedroom apartment for purchase. It's slightly impulsive, she knows, but she spends more time in New Haven than she does in Metropolis, and she still has an apartment there.

Quinn has at least two and a half more years here, which means Lena will be spending more time here and, as much as Lena enjoys a hotel, it will be nice to have a place in the city. For herself, yes, but also for Quinn, if ever she needs an escape.

The apartment is nice, spacious and warm. It's in good condition, freshly remodelled and minimally furnished. The building has good security, which is the most important part, because now Lena has to worry endlessly about keeping Quinn safe.

She likes the place.

She's taking it, and Jess is tasked with getting all the necessary paperwork together for the deal to go through. Jess hasn't expressed any opinions on the decision to invest in real estate in a city Quinn is likely to leave in a few years, and Lena knows she won't.

It's a decision Lena can afford to make.

With a shake of the agent's hand, Lena takes in the space one last time, and then heads back to Yale's campus. She has her flight scheduled for the evening to National City; back to the office and her routine and her quiet penthouse.

And Kara.

Quinn texted that she and Samah are seated at an outdoor table across from Bingham Hall, which is where she'll wait for Lena. Her message didn't include an SOS, so Lena doesn't rush.

It's probably the reason she sees her at all.

There are people around, taking walks and clumped together at tables. Everyone is in motion, except for one figure who is standing perfectly still, which is why Lena notices her. And then recognises her.

Just standing there, eyes focused somewhere in the distance.

On Quinn, who is seated at a table and talking to Samah.

Lena approches slowly, desperately trying not to imagine how she would feel if she were to witness Kara out with another person. It's not that difficult when she's witnessed it in the past, but that was before -

It was just before.

"Ah," Lena says when she's near enough. "Rachel Berry."

Rachel nearly jumps out of her skin, which Lena would find funnier if she weren't more concerned with what the young woman is doing here. She turns to look at Lena, taking a moment to place her.

Lena waits.

"You're Lena."

"And you're Rachel," Lena drawls. "Now that we're done pointing out the obvious, do you want to tell me what you're doing here?"

Rachel fiddles with the hem of her shirt, and Lena wishes it didn't remind her so much of Kara. Lena doesn't want to attach any soft feelings towards her, when she knows some of her history with Quinn. Which isn't helped when she murmurs, "I, um - I just wanted to see her."

Lena looks over Rachel's shoulder to where Quinn is sitting at a round coffee table and casually chatting to Samah, decidedly unaware of Lena and Rachel's presence. "Well. You've seen her."

Rachel turns to look at Quinn again, her shoulders tense. "I miss her," she whispers, and Lena tries to rein in her own indignation at the nerve of this girl. Not that she blames her or anything, because Lena always misses Quinn, too, but this is -

"She's on one of those coffee dates you go on to appease others," Lena eventually tells her, and Rachel flinches. "Amy has been pestering her about setting her up with a friend, and she's finally relented. I can't tell if it's going well or not."

"It's not," Rachel says, sounding certain. "When Quinn is interested, her entire body leans in. It's an unconscious thing, her entire focus on someone or something."

Lena won't even question her reasoning, but it does irk her that Rachel knows that and still can't be what Quinn needs. "She's facing the fountain."

"She probably wants someone to save her," Rachel says. "The finger-tapping is her tell. She's doing it on the table there. It's the first sign she wants to escape."

That's news to her, and Lena thinks back on the moments she's witnessed the action. Her only clear memory of it is when Quinn was in National City and first told her about Beth while they were at the restaurant.

Wait. And when the two of them first visited Judy. Rachel might be onto something.

"You should probably go over there," Rachel suggests. "At least she'll be happy to see you."

Lena steps closer to her. "If you think Quinn won't be happy to see you, then you don't know her as well as you think you do."

Rachel glances at her. "Perhaps," she agrees quietly. "I thought I knew a lot of things, but it's become clear I know nothing." She shakes her head, clearing it. "But you should still go and save her. At least you won't confuse her with your presence."

"Do you even know who I am?"

Rachel shrugs. "Beyond what Quinn told me, I don't think I really need to," she says. "It's obvious you're important to Quinn and that's all that matters."

It should be, sure, but there's still a part of Lena that hopes for some good resolution. She wouldn't admit to being a romantic, but she does want Quinn to be happy and she has a feeling Rachel could give her that if she allowed herself to.

Right now, though, Rachel steps back and away from Quinn, as if this is the best way to protect her: by hurting them both.

Well.

Lena won't deny her own hypocrisy.

"Please," Rachel says, her eyes asking more of Lena than her mouth is. She needs Lena to go over there as much as Quinn does. "Please."

There are so many things Lena has planned to say to Rachel and never thought she would have the opportunity, but none of it comes out now. The expression on her face kills Lena's words on the tip of her tongue, and Lena understands it now when Quinn claims Kara and Rachel are similar.

They wear their pain the same way.

"Okay," Lena tells her. "Even though I'm certain Quinn hasn't ever really needed anyone to save her, I'll still go."

Rachel breathes a sigh of relief that is both heavy and light. "Thank you," she murmurs.

Lena stops herself from telling her she's not doing it for her, because Rachel is obviously already hurting. Instead, she just nods once, and then moves past her, leaving Rachel standing there to ponder her decisions.

Lena's here for Quinn, anyway, and Lena can't ignore the look of relief that passes over her face when she sees Lena's approach. Lena stands corrected, it seems, and she almost expects to find a smug Rachel Berry waiting somewhere behind her.

But when Lena looks over her shoulder, Rachel is gone.

Chapter Text

vii. the worst thing that i ever did was what i did to you

Rachel would say the one good thing about New York is that it's not overly tainted with memories of Finn. Or Quinn. The life she's built in the one and a half years she's lived here has existed separate from them, and it's the main reason it's been remotely bearable.

She's made the trip to and from New Haven so many times just in the last few months that she's considered a regular on the platform. She even recognises a few people from time to time.

They recognise her, too.

They've even seen her in tears before, so today isn't anything different. But it's not as if Rachel even deserves to cry. She told Quinn she couldn't do it - whatever it even is - so of course Quinn should move on. It just - she didn't expect it to hurt this much.

She didn't expect it to hurt more than -

It's been a hellish last few months. The last year, if she's being honest, and she's still unsure how she's managed to get through it.

Well.

She has one idea.

She's just managed to get control of her tears when her phone lights up with a message. She steels herself for whom it might be, and can't say if she's relieved or disappointed it's a text from Kurt asking her if she has a preference for dinner.

She doesn't think she's going to be hungry at any time tonight.

Rachel lets him know she doesn't mind what they eat, and then switches to her photos application on her phone. She has a very specific album she's created, password protected, and for her own eyes only. She's toyed with the idea of deleting the entire thing, but there's a particular picture with which she knows she'll never be able to part.

It's a picture she took during their day in New York, those few hours some of Rachel's best in this city. She's constantly relieved they occurred away from her usual places, and immensely grateful for Quinn's suggestion. The idea of being in the city with Quinn was terrifying at first, but these are now memories she hopes she'll always have.

The picture is of only Quinn, taken while they were in the music store. Quinn had been perusing some vinyl records, her head absently bobbing to the music playing around them. Her tongue had peeked out, and Rachel couldn't resist taking out her phone and snapping a picture.

Quinn let her, but it's the picture she took right after that both terrifies and excites her. Because Rachel always closes her eyes long before they kiss. It's easier to get lost in it when she isn't forced to see.

But her camera snapped that moment; the one right before Quinn kissed her. The moment she was sure Rachel was no longer looking at her, and it is a picture that gives away so much.

Rachel Berry took a picture of what Quinn Fabray looks like when she's in love, and it is the most devastating picture Rachel has ever seen.

Sucking in a sharp breath even now, she exits the folder, locks her phone and sets it aside. After a beat, she picks it up again, connects her earphones, and spends the rest of the ride listening to SYML.

The choice of music doesn't help with her mood, but she has a plethora of excuses for just how mellow she's feeling. Tonight, it's largely owed to the guilt associated with being with Quinn, and with being without her.

She doesn't know what she was expecting going to New Haven today of all days. There's nothing special about the date, but it has been three weeks since she'd seen Quinn, and Rachel couldn't stop herself from boarding that train if she'd tried.

It was a spur of the moment thing, like that first visit, and Rachel feels both better and worse having gone. She didn't think she would actually get to talk to Quinn, but sometimes just the act of going to see her helps.

Quinn helps.

Whenever Rachel is with her, the rest of the world goes quiet. It feels good and right, but the second she acknowledges it, the guilt kicks in. It's heavy and suffocating and all she knows is that she would break Finn's heart if he knew she was finding that kind of comfort with Quinn Fabray.

It's almost dinner time when Rachel gets back to the loft, unlocking the door and sliding it open to find Santana sprawled out on the couch and looking exhausted. It mirrors the way Rachel feels, of course, but today is worse than other days.

She can see Kurt pattering about in the kitchen, his apron dusted in flour. It all seems so normal, three roommates who shouldn't work on paper, somehow just making it through life as best they can. They're definitely trying, even if Rachel feels as if she's trying less and less these days.

In another world, she could talk to them about her day, complain about how it felt to see Quinn with someone else, even if she knows it wouldn't go anywhere.

This time.

Another time, Quinn could find someone else. Someone she actually likes; someone who would treat her better and not question herself every moment they're together.

Just the idea of it makes Rachel ache.

A lot of things do that these days.

Sometimes, she just can't keep it off her face - like today, apparently - and all it takes is one look at her for Santana to ask, "What happened now?" with all the exhaustion she must feel.

Rachel is deeply aware of how horrible it's been to be around her. Her moods have been heavy and dark and sad, and any levity she's found is always closely followed by such deep-rooted guilt. She's still working through her grief, sure, but she's never been able to tell anyone about the flash of relief she feels from time to time.

Nobody knows just how suffocating the idea of being Finn's endgame became during those last few months. But that's gone now, and it's been replaced with something far worse.

Rachel almost laughs at the sound of Santana's question, but she's too afraid she'll start crying again. "Nothing," she says. "It's just been a long day."

Santana groans, dropping her head against the back of the couch. "It really has," she agrees. "I feel as if I've aged years just in the past few days. The post-holiday people at the diner are such a drag."

Rachel hums in solidarity as she removes her boots to leave at the door. She goes through the motions quietly, almost stiffly, and then starts on her way to her bedroom.

Kurt stops her, a concerned look on his face. "You sure you're okay?" he asks, voice gentle.

Rachel hasn't been okay in a long time, but she can't talk to him about it. He's seen so many parts of her already, and been witness to the ups and downs of her freshman year of college. He's watched her figure out what she wants out of life, succeed and fail at many things, and stood by her side as she's mourned Finn.

They've gone through so much together. They're still going through it all. She's sure they're always going to be going through it.

But Rachel knows she can't talk to him about Quinn. She mentioned the blonde, just once, before she first went to New Haven, and he lit up like Quinn somehow wronged him in an unforgivable way. He can't seem to understand why Rachel would even miss her, and Rachel hasn't been able to explain it to him.

All he has to say is, what would Finn think, and Rachel shuts down completely.

"I'm fine," she says, and then ducks away to get changed for dinner before he can question her further. She enters her bedroom and doesn't feel any relief. Everything just feels heavy and endless, and the only times she's felt anything good has been when she's with Quinn.

Even singing hasn't been able to bring her the same joy, because her pursuit of her career is part of the reason why she and Finn didn't even spend the last years and months of his life together. She spent most of her summer in New York, chasing work and visiting Lima for only a few short weeks at her fathers' insistence.

Rachel wouldn't admit that she wanted to reduce the chance of running into Quinn in Lima, but she needn't have worried about that in the end, because Quinn didn't even end up going to Ohio at all. In fact, Rachel learned from her fathers that Judy Fabray sold the house, which meant Quinn was probably never going to be returning.

Finn thought it was the best news, and Rachel just didn't comment.

With a sigh, Rachel gets undressed slowly and dumps her dirty clothes in her laundry hamper. It takes her a moment to decide on a shower. It's her usual routine whenever she comes back from New Haven, intent on washing Quinn off her as if other people would be able to tell just what she's been doing and with whom just by taking one look at her.

She won't have to worry about that anymore.

The shower helps, but it also doesn't. She does most of her thinking under the stream of water, and all that's on her mind is Quinn. And that girl Quinn was talking to. But mainly Lena.

She's the one who intrigues Rachel the most. Besides Quinn, of course, but it doesn't hurt as much to think about Lena. She looked familiar, in a way that Rachel knows she's seen her face before. Not in any relation to Quinn, but somewhere in the world. A magazine, maybe. On a billboard, perhaps.

It bothers her that she can't recall where, and dinner ends up being a quiet affair. She's freshly showered, forcing herself to eat, all while listening to Santana bitch about customers and Kurt question whether a boy in one of his classes has a better range than him. It should be normal and easy, but all Rachel can think about is Quinn, and Lena, and just everything that isn't in this apartment.

She doesn't figure it out until later, when they're squished together on the couch and Santana is switching through the limited channels they get on their television. They stream most things, but Santana is somewhat comforted by the action of actually channel-surfing. She just does it so well.

It's a news piece, a small bite on an upcoming product release from the technology company L-Corp. It's two minutes long, the entire thing, and Rachel sees Lena's face for nineteen of those seconds. She looks different on screen, somehow harder and more severe. Nothing like the woman she met.

Quinn's Lena is Lena Luthor, and Rachel doesn't know what to do with that information.

On any other day, Rachel wouldn't have paid any attention to the short piece, because National City doesn't concern her, seeing as it's on the other coast and she doesn't use any of L-Corp's products. If anything, she avoids them after the whole Lex Luthor versus Superman debacle. Metropolis is a lot closer to New York, anyway.

But what on Earth is Quinn doing with her?

Well, wait.

Based on what little Quinn told her, maybe Lena is linked to Operation Ellis the same way Quinn is. Rachel immediately pulls out her phone to look it up again, the page already in her recent history. At the time the article was released, Rachel missed it. It never even registered with her; not until Quinn mentioned the name the day Rachel saw Lena for the first time.

At the time, Rachel didn't quite understand what Quinn was referring to, but she knew it was important enough that she immediately looked it up when she got home. It had to be something big, particularly to Quinn, and she wasn't wrong.

It's jarring even thinking about it right now. Knowing that Quinn learned that about herself and has had to deal with it without them, on top of everything else. If anyone knows what it's like to be adopted, Rachel does.

She misses what it was like to be able to talk to Quinn, about anything and everything. Their friendship really strengthened the summer after graduation, both of them eager to get out of Lima and take on their respective cities. It had been exciting, making plans with someone else who was also getting out.

They didn't talk about Finn. Quinn never brought him up, and Rachel felt insensitive discussing their relationship with her, when Quinn made it clear on numerous occasions she didn't approve of their coupling. Quinn also definitely had nothing to say about the fact the two of them went on a 'break' that Rachel has never admitted to anyone started to feel more like a prison sentence.

They also didn't talk about Shelby, or Beth, or the fact Quinn would have kissed her if they hadn't been interrupted during one of Puck's summer parties a few weeks after graduation. Quinn hadn't been drinking, but Rachel had, and Quinn played it off as nothing, so Rachel let her. It didn't mean anything, and Rachel could have been mistaken.

Now she knows she wasn't.

Rachel has been wrong about a great many things already, but one thing she's certain of: this thing that's happened with Quinn, she can talk to nobody about.


The text arrives in the middle of the night, which makes sense given the time difference, but Kara is already awake. She's sitting on L-Corp's roof, which is fitting.

Kara has to retrieve her Kara-Phone from her suit's boot, heart beating that bit faster when her eyes catch sight of Lena's name.

Lena is texting her.

Again.

Kara forces herself to take several deep breaths, and then opens the text, uncaring that she's barely waited any amount of time to appear cool and collected.

Lena: As much as I know Liz loves your visits, I should let you know that I'm officially back in National City. Just so you know where to look if ever you need to hear my heart.

Kara won't admit to floating off the ground without realising it, but it happens on occasion, and it actually gives her a scare tonight. She hasn't involuntarily floated in some years now.

Without responding, Kara quiets her mind and zeroes in on Lena's heart. She is safely in her home, softly humming to herself, alone in her penthouse, and Kara wants nothing more to fly over there and -

Kara resettles on the roof, sighing.

Kara: What song is that?

As soon as she sends it, she regrets it. If Lena claims listening to her heartbeat isn't an invasion of privacy, then that definitely is.

Lena: Gosh, I've had it stuck in my head all day. It's this cover of the song In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins. Quinn sings it as a lullaby to her nephews.

Kara: Karaoke bar next time she's in town?

Immediate regret, once more. Kara really doesn't know how to be cool about this. Lena is talking to her, and the last thing she wants to do is mess it up.

Kara: Um. Forget I said that.

Lena: No karaoke?

Kara: Maybe just not the next time she's here. I don't want to presume anything.

Lena: Perhaps that's for the best.

Lena: But I do think we need to talk. About a lot of things. When are you free?

If Kara were able to have one, she's sure she would be having something resembling a heart attack right now. She just knows this opportunity can't be wasted. She also knows it's probably courtesy of Quinn, who seems to be this bridge between them in a way Kara never could have expected.

Kara: You tell me when and where and you know I'll be there.

She means every word. Which is probably not the way to go about this. Kara needs boundaries as much as Lena does, and they need to do this better this time around.

Kara: Actually, no. I don't think that's the right thing to say.

Lena: There is no right thing, Kara. Just check your schedule and let me know.

Kara would fly to her right now, but she knows that's definitely not the way to go, either. It's also probably best if they interact in places where they're not alone. In public. Somewhere that they can both be comfortable without feeling as if they've conceded something.

Kara: Okay, I'll let you know in the morning.

She breathes out, trying to accept that this is actually what she thinks it is: a way back to Lena.

Kara: After you get some sleep, of course 🧐

Lena: I'm going, I'm going.

Lena: Goodnight, Kara.

Kara: Good morning, Lena ☺️


The start of Rachel's new semester is sudden and painful.

It's nothing she doesn't expect, of course, because they were warned that every semester would ask more and more of them as they move through their degrees, so much more expected of them.

Rachel has already established herself as someone to watch within the Academy, even if she's still years away from graduating, and there are a lot of eyes on her. Expecting greatness from her, sure, but some of them also hoping she'll fail spectacularly.

The one good thing to come out of this past year is she has a lot to draw on for characters that require raw emotion to portray them. She's got it all down to an art now, able to channel her heartache into her performances. She's got an endless bucket of emotions to use, and she's pathetic enough to make use of them.

"Hey."

Rachel startles out of her thoughts, her hands frozen where she's been trying to tie her laces after her dance rehearsal. The studio was supposed to be empty, but now Brody is standing over her and giving her a curious look.

She internally sighs. "Hi, Brody," she says, already exhausted by his presence. It isn't even about him, but really about the fact she's not currently alone.

Brody either doesn't hear the clipped tone of her voice or he wilfully ignores it, because he drops himself onto the floor beside her and says, "You know class has been over for forty minutes, right?"

"I was getting in a bit more practice," she explains, even if that's not necessarily true. She's just been sitting her for something like half an hour, staring into space and trying to convince herself to go home when all she wants is to be in New Haven with Quinn. She wants to see her and touch her and tell her she's sorry and that she wants nothing more than to be with her.

"I saw," he says, stretching his legs out in front of him. He saw, which means he's aware of just how long she's been sitting here decidedly not practicing the way she's implying. "Are you okay?" he asks, voice quieter than usual.

Rachel looks over at him, finding his gaze softer than she remembers. Their relationship has been tumultuous in the past, a pair of people who met at the wrong time and weren't able to give the other what they wanted. For a while, they didn't talk, but he's back in her life now - mainly professionally - and this is the first time she considers him as someone she can talk to.

Brody would never judge her, even if she knows she can't tell him the entire truth. Not when she can't even tell Quinn.

"I'm in love, Brody," she says, and his eyebrows rise. "It is ruining me."

Brody waits a moment. "We're not talking about Finn, are we?" he says, as if he already knows. They're not talking about Finn, at all. "How long?"

"I don't know," she answers, because she really doesn't. It's almost as if she's held this affection for this girl for months and years, and she's just now accepted that Quinn Fabray was always going to ruin her. "Longer than I can admit."

"Why are you so miserable about it?" Brody asks. "You're allowed to love whoever you want."

Rachel wishes it were that simple. Maybe it could be, if she could just switch off her brain for a moment. Being with Quinn helps with that. Being with her feels right, and wrong. It's nothing new.

"I just don't see how we would make it work," Rachel tells him, which is the truth. She doesn't see a way for them to be together the way they both deserve. There's just no way she can keep her friends and her sanity if she were to choose Quinn.

"What are the holdups?" Brody asks, and she appreciates the way he's trying to help. "Because, I mean, I know we've had a less than stellar relationship, but I want you to be happy. Everyone does."

"Even if that happiness is with someone they wouldn't approve of?"

Brody gives it some thought. "That depends," he says. "Is this person bad for you? Physically and mentally?"

It's a complicated question in many ways. Their past is full of conflict that caused harm in both ways, but it wouldn't be fair to answer in the affirmative now. Quinn hasn't hurt her in a long time.

Well, not in any way she's known. Not willingly, at least. Not anymore. Right now, she just has to be Quinn to mess with Rachel's brain, and it's a wonder they ended up in such close proximity in the first place.

"I think the idea that we'll never manage to work has caused additional stress," Rachel tells him. "It will hurt us both to be together, but that won't be because of the other."

Brody gives her a look. "As hot as it would be, I sincerely hope you're not talking about Cassie."

His words startle a laugh out of her, and her eyes widen in horror. "Oh, my God, no," she says, flush on her cheeks. It's not as if she's never entertained the thought - the woman is hot, and Rachel is only human - but Rachel's heart has always been involved when being intimate with a partner, despite her intentions.

It's one of the reasons she and Brody didn't work out.

"I know she's your teacher," Brody adds, "but what you're describing fits her."

Rachel shakes her head. "We're not even talking about New York here," she murmurs, which might be the words that give her away without her even having to be explicit.

Brody knows there's only one person outside of New York who could so effectively break her this way.

"Oh, Rachel," he says, voice sad. Pitying, and somehow understanding, as well.

It's sometimes horrible to recall, but Brody is sitting here with her, and she just knows he was witness to the one fight between her and Finn that brought about a solidified, mutual agreement on a break and a series of promises.

They promised each other they would be together again once college was over; once Rachel became a household name, and Finn found his place in the world - whether it was coaching show choir or eventually taking over Burt's car garage. They promised they wouldn't fall in love with anyone else, even if they ended up dating other people.

Rachel made an extra promise, and Finn died the only other person who knew about it.

They were, perhaps, impossible promises, but she was a college freshman caught between holding onto her high school love and figuring out how to be an artist without him. It was just easier to agree to everything then, but now she's -

Now she's hurting in new, different ways.

"I can't, Brody," she says, and her voice is strained. "I can't."

Brody takes a breath, thinking of the right words. "I can't know what it's been like for you," he says. "I won't even pretend I do, but I do know what it's like to be this person standing between you and - " he stops and frowns. "Your destiny? Your future? I don't even know. Whatever it was, it wasn't an easy place to be, and you struggled with it then, and we weren't even anything serious."

Rachel really doesn't know where he's going with this, but she wishes he would get there quicker.

"I wasn't so heartbroken over it because of what it meant for me, but more because of what it meant for you," he says. "You're twenty years old, Rachel. You didn't need that kind of pressure, and you definitely don't need it now."

"Brody," she says, because she's still unsure what he's trying to tell her. "It can't - I need - anyone but her."

Brody nods slowly. "It's a cliché, I know, but the heart really does want what the heart wants."

"I can't," she repeats.

"You keep saying that, but I think you're just waiting for someone to give you the permission to go for it," Brody points out. "Who do you need to hear it from?"

Finn.

She needs to hear it from Finn.

Brody must be able to tell her answer just from the look on her face, and even his shoulders slump. "Oh."

Rachel finally finishes tying her laces.

Oh, indeed.


They get coffee.

It's Lena's suggestion, giving them a time limit between her work meetings. Kara picks the café, a place they've never been to together, and not too far from L-Corp. It takes nearly two weeks to schedule a day that works for them both, but they do exchange a handful of texts that Kara reads through every night before her patrol.

The texts mainly consist of schedule discussions, coffee complaints and a short paragraph from Lena about a novel she's just finished reading. It's nothing big, but it's still something.

Kara has to temper her excitement and battle her nerves as the day approaches. She can't even tell Alex about what's happening, but she gets the feeling her sister senses that something has changed. Can't tell why or what, but Alex must suspect it has something to do with Lena.

Only Lena truly has this much power over Kara.

Kara can't recall exactly when that happened, if she's honest. There wasn't just one moment when Kara realised that Lena became someone more important to her than even herself.

Maybe it was a series of moments. Every moment just adding up until Kara was forced to realise that this human being stole something from her she wasn't even sure existed within her. Kara knew Lena Luthor was many things, but a thief wasn't one of them.

Kara has to force herself not to overthink everything. It'll just put too much pressure on them to reach some kind of understanding. Things can be normal. She doesn't have to spend an hour picking what she's going to wear, she doesn't.

She's useless all morning, feigning doing research and working on an article that has only two sentences. But she sits in her seat until she can leave, and she has to force herself not to rush over as soon as she's out of sight.

She can be calm.

She can be so calm.

Kara still arrives first, hovers near the door for a few minutes, and then goes inside. There's a short line, which Kara joins, and she's just reached the front when Lena arrives, waves her on, and then joins the end of the line.

It's fine.

This is something Kara anticipated. They've arrived separately, they'll purchase their own drinks, and then settle at a table somewhere in a quiet corner. Easy. Kara can do this.

It takes exactly four minutes and twelve seconds for her to realise she absolutely cannot do this.

After exchanging slightly-awkward pleasantries, Kara doesn't know what to say, and Lena looks just as stumped. If pressed, Kara would confess that she would be perfectly content just sitting here, as long as she gets to look at Lena who is actually sitting opposite her - and willingly.

Because Kara's missed her in ways she wasn't aware she could. Different to the way she's missed her parents, or even Alex when she left for college.

Kara's missed Lena enough that her body aches.

She clears her throat, finds her voice, and asks, "So, how's Quinn?"

Lena startles a little at the question, but then she smiles. It's soft and tender, and Kara wouldn't be able to look away if she tried. Not that she'd ever bother to. "Oh, she's doing okay, thank you," she says, shaking her head in amusement. "Back at school and complaining endlessly about it."

"What is she studying?" Kara asks, accepting that they might be able to ease into a flowing conversation by talking about someone who isn't one of the two of them. And Kara is curious about the young woman, despite everything.

"English, mainly," Lena tells her. "And a Minor in Drama." She shakes her head again, still amused. "She says it was an obvious choice based on how dramatic her life has been."

"She did mention she does a bit of writing," Kara says, thinking back to the time they spent together in Ireland. "No journalism in her sights?"

Lena chuckles, and Kara sees the tension slowly ease in her shoulders. "Who knows with that kid?" she says. "I don't think she has it all figured out yet, which is refreshing, but also a little irritating."

"Oh?"

"I like to make plans."

Kara finds herself smiling. "You do like to make plans," she agrees. "But what does that have to do with Quinn?"

Here, Lena hesitates, and Kara almost takes back the question. Maybe she doesn't actually want to know, because Quinn seems to have claimed a position of importance in Lena's life that Kara doesn't remember being available before.

Lena presses her fingers against her cup, a slight crease in her brow. "I just get the feeling our futures are going to be tightly linked from here on out," she finally says. "I need to know if I have to start laying down the foundation to convince her to move to National City after she graduates."

The sentiment is nothing new. Kara knows Lena has a magnetism people can't resist; people loyal to her in a way that still surprises her. Frank, Jess, Sam, even Jack.

Lena sighs. "But her romantic woes remain on the East Coast, so I don't know if I could pry her away."

Kara sips her coffee. "Still not resolved?"

Lena shakes her head. "Not in the sense that'll help," she says. "Quinn still hasn't heard from her, and she's caught in this place between holding on for something to happen or just letting go completely and moving on."

"It's not easy letting go," Kara says, and Lena lifts her gaze to meet hers. There is so much there, but Kara can't make sense of any of it. Her eyes are as unreadable as they've always been, holding secrets Kara might never learn.

"No, it isn't," Lena agrees, voice quiet. "I suppose that's why we're here, right?"

"One of the reasons."

Lena traces the brim of her cup with her forefinger. "I didn't learn about Operation Ellis until the middle of September," she reveals, which is a swift switch of topics, but Kara is here for all of it. "Jess saved your letter that you threw away."

"She told me."

Lena smiles as if she already knows. "I figured she would," she says. "It was - that first month without you was hard. Well, everything since I learned the truth has been difficult, but I could almost bury the hurt under my anger at you. I couldn't do that once you were gone."

The ache gets worse, settling in Kara's gut and keeping her seated.

"It took two months to read it," Lena explains, "and I was - it wasn't anything I imagined you would not tell me."

Kara has rebuttals sitting on the tip of her tongue, but they won't mean anything. It won't help either of them for her to point out that Lena didn't want to hear anything she wanted to say near the end there.

"But then I remembered you have a pattern of withholding things in the guise of protecting me."

"Lena - "

"No, please can I just say this?" she says. "I think, in a sense, I could almost get myself ready for whatever the letter held by letting me read the letter in my own time, but I - I don't think I could have ever been ready for the truth of whom you are."

Kara bites the inside of her cheek to stop herself from speaking.

"I realise now that it was all inevitable," she continues. "We were going to break eventually, your secret looming over us, and then it happened, and it was awful, and I just - I don't want to feel that anymore."

Kara knows she's said it dozens of times, but she can't stop herself. She needs Lena to understand just how much she means it. "I'm so sorry, Lena." Her voice sounds strained to her own ears, pained in a way that hasn't faded in the months they haven't spent together.

"I'm sorry, too, Kara," Lena says, and she's frowning. "I have deceived you, too. Treated you unfairly when all you were trying to do is fix us. Continually berated you for doing exactly what I needed from you, even if I pretended it was the last thing I wanted."

Kara frowns, not quite following. "What do you mean?"

Lena chooses this moment to take her first sip of her coffee, and Kara can hear her heart get that bit faster. Just slightly, as if the next words she's going to say will change things.

So much has changed already.

It's maybe the reason Kara cuts in and says, "Actually, can we hold off on that for a second?"

Lena blinks up at her. "Oh, um, okay."

"Sorry," Kara says. "I just - there's something I wanted to tell you first."

"Okay."

Kara takes a breath, steadying herself. She didn't think she would ever get this opportunity again, just to talk to Lena, and now that she has -

There's something she has to say.

Except, well, now Lena is looking at her with those eyes and that face and that mouth, and Kara's brain does a thing. Sort of stops and stutters, all thoughts abandoning her. Which is why she actually ends up saying, "You're beautiful," instead of literally anything else.

Lena's heart rate rises again, beats ferociously for a moment and then settles. "Um. That's - well, that's not what I expected you to say, but, uh, thank you."

Kara would definitely feel more mortified by her choice of words if Lena wasn't currently blushing. "I don't think I tell you that enough," she says.

Lena nods slowly, clears her throat, and then asks, "How's work?"

Kara would laugh if she weren't so relieved by the opportunity to talk about something else. Her work feels like a safe place, especially since she really seems to have found her groove as a reporter now.

"You seem to be focusing on a lot of science these days," Lena observes, and Kara spends the rest of their time together talking about her father, her uncle, and the position she would have taken in the Science Guild.

By the time Lena has to return to work, she's wearing a small, secret smile.

Kara waits until they're out on the sidewalk, a slight chill in the air. "What?" she asks, watching as Lena's smile widens by a fraction. "What's that smile for?"

"I just realised something."

Kara resists the urge to get closer. "What's that?"

"You know exactly what quantum entanglement is, don't you?"

Kara draws a blank for a moment, and then she laughs, a little nervous. Her left hand finds the back of her neck, heat under her skin. "I - yeah, I suppose I do."

"I bet you understand it more than I ever could?"

Here, Kara goes still, and then shakes her head. "I reckon we understand it exactly the same, Lena." This time, she takes a step forward right into Lena's personal space. She doesn't touch her, because she's convinced she won't be able to stop if she starts again. There's another uptick in Lena's heart rate, and Kara knows she's cheating a little.

"Explain it to me, then," Lena says, head tilted slightly upwards to keep her gaze on Kara's.

"I don't have to," Kara tells her. "Just look at you and me; we're basically the definition."

Lena breathes out in a puff, her brow creasing. "What does - " she starts, and then stops. Beautiful brain working to make sense of Kara's meaning. "Oh."

Kara grins at her. "You have a meeting to get to."

Lena nods numbly. "I do."

"You should get back."

"I should."

They stare at each other for several moments, stopping only when a car's horn goes off on the street, and they both startle. And then laugh.

Lena gives her a quick wave, and then she's stepping back, turning around, and walking away. She looks back, only once, blushing prettily when she realises Kara is still standing there and watching her.

Kara gives her a wave this time, and then Lena's steps quicken slightly, as if she's embarrassed. Kara doesn't move until Lena is out of sight, releasing a breath she wasn't aware she was holding.

They still have so much to talk about; heavy, dark things, of course, but it's better that they're interspersed with lighter things, as well. Allows for Kara to walk away from this first coffee meeting without feeling as if the world is still falling apart.

One thing Kara knows for certain - something she's always known - as she starts on her way back to work is that she and Lena are the definition of quantum entanglement.

There is no way for Kara to exist in this Universe without Lena, and she suspects it is the same for Lena.


It's Adam who asks Rachel the question.

For months, she has been out of the loft, spending weekends and even some weeknights elsewhere. Not anywhere she's told them about, though, and Adam is just drunk enough to surpass social graces and ask the question she's sure they've all wanted to ask.

Rachel is hogging the armchair, curled into a ball and wrapped in a light blanket. It's a Saturday night, the four of them trying to decide what to order in for dinner, when Adam asks his question.

Kurt pinches his arm as soon as the words are out, but Rachel doesn't miss the curiosity in his eyes. And Santana's. She's pretending not to be interested, but she obviously is. Rachel would be, too.

Rachel doesn't immediately answer, turning over the words in her head. The phrasing is odd. Where would you go every weekend? Not odd in the sense that she doesn't expect them, but in the sense that they're true.

She would see Quinn every weekend, at least.

No wonder her mood's fallen to the dumps. She went months without seeing Quinn, and then saw her endlessly, and now it's cold turkey again. Only worse, because now she knows how it feels to be with Quinn.

Sometimes, Rachel imagines what it would be like if she and Quinn were actually together. How it would be having Quinn exist in this room with them, squished in beside Rachel, warm body wrapped around her. They could be comfortable and warm and happy, laughing at something Santana says and complaining about how disgustingly cute Kurt and Adam are.

In another life, it would be perfect, but this isn't a perfect world and Rachel is still trying to accept that.

"Nowhere," she finally says. "Everywhere."

Adam bunches his eyebrows as he digests the words, and then nods as if he understands. "You just had to go somewhere else," he says, nodding his head. "I get that. Sometimes, you just have to go."

It wasn't just that, though. It wasn't just about getting away from here. It was about going somewhere specific; going to Quinn. But there's no use trying to explain that. It's easier to let them believe she was just roaming through the city searching for some escape to her grief within its limits.

Nobody can know she found that, and so much more, in Quinn Fabray.

"But you're around now," Santana points out. "Did you find whatever you were looking for?"

"Yes," she says, "and no."

Santana gives her a look that Rachel can't read. The two of them haven't spoken about Quinn in a serious way since Quinn's one and only visit to their loft back in early March. Rachel hasn't been able to talk to her seriously since she learned that Santana is the first girl Quinn slept with.

Also since the day Rachel first kissed Quinn and panicked about it.

Months have passed, and now here they are. Quinn is some kind of taboo topic, a distant memory that can't exist unattached to Finn. They're just two things they don't talk about, and Rachel is actually okay with that.

Eventually, Santana looks away again, and Rachel breathes out. She must be able to tell that there's more to it, but she won't press for information in present company.

"I could go for Thai," Adam suddenly says.

After agreeing to the suggestion, Kurt places the order and Rachel excuses herself to the bathroom, but actually ends up in her bedroom. She climbs onto her bed, curls up and desperately tries not to think about what Quinn is doing right now. Could she be out at a party? Holed up in her bedroom studying? Maybe she's having dinner with Amy? Or with that girl she was talking to?

Rachel closes her eyes tightly, willing the image away.

She wants to go to New Haven. She's wanted to go back since the moment she returned. Her body is practically vibrating with the desire to get on that train and just go to the city. Even if she doesn't see Quinn, all she wants is the act of going.

Rachel remains where she is. Doesn't move until Santana shouts that their food has arrived, and Rachel has to drag herself off her bed and out of her room.

Kurt has set up the food cartons on the coffee table, the three of them crowded around them, and Rachel notices they've finally decided on a channel on television.

The news.

Which means it was Adam's choice. He's the only one of them that really makes a point of being informed about the happenings of the country and the world.

Rachel settles on the carpet closest to her abandoned armchair, reaches for her vegan Pad Thai, and says, "Adam, what have you heard about Operation Ellis?"

Kurt and Santana both look perplexed by the question, but Adam's eyes light up. "The adoption scandal?"

Rachel nods, curious to hear his take. "I read up a bit on it," she says. "It's horrible."

"It's almost as worse as what Georgia Tann managed to do," Adam says, and then proceeds to explain that the woman was a social worker responsible for trafficking thousands on children in the later decades of the first half of the 1900s.

"I don't think Operation Ellis reached those numbers," Adam says, "but it's still alarming that this was able to go on as recently as in the nineties." He puts a strip of beef in his mouth, chews and swallows. "I actually went to Gotham City a few weeks back with some other group members because we were curious what was being done to reunite these families."

Rachel forgets, sometimes, how much work Adam does to bring about societal and political change when he's not being a laidback musician. He's part of a group fighting for human and civil rights, intent on bringing awareness to injustices of the world.

"What are they doing?" Kurt asks.

"Not much, to be honest," Adam says, shaking his head. "Very little they can do, I'm afraid. Most of the records were falsified, documents that can't always be believed. There's a support group, apparently, and there were rumours going around that L-Corp borrowed the FBI some algorithms to speed up the process."

There it is.

L-Corp.

"Huh?" Santana says. "What are they even doing getting involved?"

Lena Luthor is one of them. She's one of those children stolen from her home and family, and then sold to another one under the ruse of an adoption.

Like Quinn.

"Imagine being one of them," Rachel says, more to herself. "Imagine just going through life, knowing you're adopted or not, and then getting that kind of bombshell dropped on you that your biological family has been looking for you all along."

Santana lets out a long whistle. "I think I'd actually destroy something," she says. "Especially if I didn't already know I was adopted."

"You'd feel lost two times over," Adam says.

Rachel drops her gaze to her food, her appetite suddenly gone. Just the thought of Quinn losing her bearings that way, especially when she was still trying to be found, makes Rachel want to wrap her arms around her and hold on for forever.

"You're adopted," Kurt says, looking at Rachel. "I imagine the whole idea must give you the creeps."

"Definitely," Rachel says. "Like, just imagine if Shelby hadn't willingly given me up, and then my parents just unknowingly adopted me. I don't even know what I would do if that turned out to be the case. Never to know whom she was, or never to be able to find her when I learned the truth."

Kurt shakes his head. "Those poor children."

"And parents," Adam adds, sounding solemn. The air is heavier now, all of them lost in thinking about what that would be like.

Santana is the first to clear her throat and say, "Dude, that's a fucking downer." She huffs, eating some fried rice. "Why are you asking about that, anyway?"

What Rachel would like to know is if finding out something like that would be enough of an excuse for Quinn's not being at Finn's funeral and memorial week. She wants to know if they could see past the fact Quinn hasn't called or replied to any of their messages since then. Not that Rachel blames her, of course, because some of those messages were awful.

But she would just like to know if there's a chance. Regardless of whether she and Quinn can work out whatever they have going on, it would be nice to know that Quinn would be welcome here once again. Rachel just doesn't know how to ask that.

"I was just curious," she says. "I guess I wanted to know how you would handle something like that?"

"Probably shut out the world and curl into a ball and cry," Kurt says, and Rachel can only hope he remembers saying those words when the time comes.


They graduate from just coffee to coffee and pastries in just three weeks.

Kara isn't giddy. That would be ridiculous. But she does smile like an idiot when Lena expresses her desire for a croissant, and Nia has to throw a pen at her to stop the manic look on her face.

Kara doesn't even care.

Kara: Noonan's?

It's a bit of a risk, because Noonan's is a very 'Kara and Lena' place, and Kara doesn't want to jump the gun by moving into the familiar too quickly.

Lena: I can get out of here by noon.

Kara's excitement ramps up, her heart pounding. There's still so much they need to talk about, but they've been slowly addressing things over additional coffees, all while allowing a certain comfort to settle between them once more.

Kara has been very careful, though. Tempering several aspects of herself, so as not to overwhelm Lena with just how much it means to her that they're both trying. They're trying.

Kara: Meet you there?

Lena: Actually, can you meet me downstairs and we can walk together? The weather's looking pretty good out there - we should take advantage of it.

It is a miracle that Kara remains in her seat. When she was younger and still getting a handle on how her emotions could affect her powers, Alex used to joke about installing seatbelts on all her chairs. Back then, it seemed silly, but it sounds like a good idea right now.

Kara: Meet you there 😎

She feels ridiculous. Like a child, really, who's talking to her crush. It's not too far off base, but Kara isn't a fifteen-year-old anymore. She's approaching thirty - in Earth years, at least - and she should probably have a better handle on this.

Then again, this is Lena, and Kara's perfectly-crafted control in all other parts of her life tend to fall to the wayside. It is ridiculous.

Kara could spend her time fighting it, or she could just accept it for what it is. There was a huge secret hanging over them that stopped Kara from being her entire self and stopped Lena from truly knowing all of her, but the secret's gone now, and Kara's hopeful for something big and beautiful.

She'd be happy with just this, though. Even if all they do for the rest of their lives is get coffee (and pastries) several times a week, Kara could learn to accept just that. She wants more, of course, but she'll never ask.

Not yet, at least.

But one day, maybe. They can build up to it or something, the two of them still just getting used to this new normal in which they now find themselves. It's what Kara is thinking about when she finally leaves her desk and makes her way to L-Corp. It's been so long since she's been inside the building, but today isn't going to be that day.

Lena is already waiting in the lobby, waving at her when she spots her. Kara waits out front as she exits the building and joins her. This part is always a bit awkward, because Kara would like nothing more than to hug her, but they're not quite there yet.

So, Kara does a dorky little bow, which gets a chuckle out of Lena. "Shall we?"

Lena starts them walking, and Kara falls into step beside her. "We've been really busy the past few days," she explains, glancing at Kara. "The final testing for our mind-controlled wheelchairs before we go to market."

Kara's definitely interested now. "This is the first I'm hearing of it."

"We've managed to keep it quiet," she says. "Do you want the exclusive?"

"What kind of question is that?" she asks, incredulous. "Of course I do. Tell me more."

Lena does. There is just something truly very fascinating about watching Lena talk about her work. Her voice gets a little higher, her eyes lighten and her hands get animated. There's something so child-like about her, soft and real and true, and Kara could listen to her wax poetic about actuators for hours and hours.

When they arrive, Kara holds open the door for her, which gets her a small smile, and then they're inside. It feels different, though, and Kara has come to realise that's just the way things are going to be.

What isn't different, though, is Lena's obvious amusement at Kara's indecision to pick only one kind of pastry. Lena picks her croissant, and Kara chooses a croissant, a Danish and a bear claw. It's her pre-lunch, don't judge her.

They've just settled with their treats when Lena says, "Liz was telling me about your visit last week," with a kind smile. "Phone calls aren't always easy, but I just don't see how I can fly out there to see her right now. I don't want her to forget us."

"I'll keep checking on her," Kara assures her. "She knows who you are. We won't let her forget."

"Thank you, Kara."

She wants to assure Lena that she'll do anything for her, but she tucks the words away and smiles in response. Lena must already know, though.

A moment later, Lena's phone pings where she's set it on the table. She sends an apologetic look to Kara before she checks it. Smiles at what she reads, and then sends back a quick reply.

"Sorry about that," Lena says, locking her phone and setting it on the table. "That was Quinn. She's wondering what time I'm arriving tomorrow. She's planning to cook, apparently, and she wants to know if she has to go grocery shopping today or tomorrow."

Kara blinks. "You're leaving?"

Lena hums, lifting her coffee to her lips. "Just for a few days," she says. "It's Quinn's birthday on Monday, so I thought I would spend the weekend with her."

"Oh." Kara smiles. "Please wish her a happy birthday from me."

Lena looks at her, long and searching. "I will." Then: "Thank you."

"For what?"

Lena lifts a shoulder. "I don't know," she says, "maybe just for that."

Kara must look as perplexed as she feels, because Lena's smile widens.

"I just mean, you know, thank you for thinking of her," she says. "You, Frank and Jess are really the only people who know her, and what she means to me. So thank you for… accepting that."

"Do you think other people won't?"

"I just think they won't understand it," she says, "not without an explanation." She shakes her head. "Which is not something I'm willing to give."

Kara has her own questions, of course, but she's not going to ask them. Lena will tell her whatever she wants whenever she wants. Kara will give her the courtesy, because it's something she would have wanted for herself.

"You don't owe anyone anything, Lena," Kara says, and she might feel slightly bitter saying that, because she stands by her own truth that she doesn't owe anyone her identity.

As much as it pains her, not even Lena. Where she went wrong is expecting that her mixed identity interacting with Lena wouldn't have a long-lasting effect on them when the truth did eventually come out.

Lena leans forward and drops the volume of her voice. "Do you know whom she is?" she asks. "Do you know whom she is to me?"

"No," Kara tells her, truthful. "Just that she's important to you, and that's all that matters."

Lena stares at her, expression unreadable. "That's what Rachel said."

"Excuse me?"

"Quinn's special friend," Lena explains, "that's what she said to me."

"Okay…?"

Lena shakes her head. "And now you're saying it to me."

Kara can hear it in her voice, the wonder and slight disbelief. Lena's working something out in her head right now, but Kara isn't brave enough to follow her down that particular rabbit hole.

Kara takes a bite of her croissant, wipes her mouth with a napkin, and then asks, "Who is she, then?"

Lena meets her gaze. "She's my sister, Kara," she reveals, and Kara's mouth drops open. "We have the same mother. They took us both from the hospital where Quinn was born. I didn't remember her until Liz called her Ella."

Kara feels off-kilter just hearing it, so she can only imagine how Lena and Quinn have felt. "I didn't find anything about that," she finds herself saying, frowning slightly. "I would have told you if I did."

"I know," Lena says, and her smile is sad. "I know you would have, Kara."

"As long as you know." She clears her throat. "You have a sister."

"I have a sister," Lena echoes, smiling in a bit of wonder. "She's sometimes annoying."

"We can be, indeed."

Lena rolls her eyes. "We did a blood test to be certain, but yes, I have a sister I probably would never have known about if - " she stops. She looks out the window to the street. "Your article mentioned you found the adoption scandal because you were looking for - because you wanted to - "

"I wanted to give you something I had taken away from you," Kara tells her, because it's no secret to either of them that Lena is the reason Kara even went looking for anything to be found. "A sense of family."

"Is that the only reason?"

Kara takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. "No."

Lena's gaze is heavy. "No?"

Kara shakes her head. "No," she confirms.

"Will you tell me what other reason there could be?"

"I will."

Lena nods, only once. "You think I'm not ready for it, do you?"

"I don't think even I'm ready for it," Kara admits. "All I know is I wanted to find your family, because you deserve to have more people in your life who will choose you."

"I've been tempted to contact Lillian about it," Lena confesses. "Just to know if she knew, maybe even to ask her why they would have adopted me if they were always going to treat me as if I wasn't wanted." She shakes her head. "But I don't want to give her the satisfaction. Pride seems to be a thing Quinn and I inherited, apparently."

"Do you think she would even tell you the truth?" Kara asks.

"Probably not." She drinks some coffee. "There's nobody else to ask."

Kara drops her gaze immediately, because she's part of the reason that's true. Lionel Luthor's death isn't in any way linked to Kara, but Lex Luthor's definitely is. "I'm sorry," she says, for what feels like the hundredth time.

Lena just nods, saying nothing more about it. They really should talk more about it, because Kara is Supergirl, and Supergirl went up against Lena's brother to the death.

Even now, Kara shudders at the thought that Lex could have won, and Lena would have learned about Kara's second life at the same time she learned of her death.

"So, I have a sister," Lena says, "and I never would have found her if - I just know that you have played a big part in making sure of that." She breathes out. "Thank you."

Kara is caught a little off guard, because she wasn't ever expecting to be thanked. If anything, she's angered more people than not by investigating further, but Lena sounds sincere.

And Kara is equally sincere when she says, "You should know I would do anything for you," and doesn't care if it's too soon for the verbal sentiment.

Of course, Lena already knows that, which is probably why Kara sees a flash of guilt on her face. Because Lena has used that against Kara in the past; used it to her advantage to get things out of Kara only Kara could give her.

Kara has done the same with Lena in the past, as well.

Huh.

Maybe they are meant for each other, after all.

Chapter Text

viii. i think i've seen this film before, and i didn't like the ending

When Rachel gets cast in an upcoming original NYADA production, the first person she wants to tell is Quinn. It's a massive deal, almost unheard of that she would get such a prime role as a sophomore. But here she is, having her dreams come true, and she doesn't even feel as if it means anything.

Brody is more excited than she is, lifting her off the ground and spinning her around. The action gets a shriek and a laugh out of her, but it's faded by the time he sets her on the ground once more.

He takes one look at her, throws an arm over her shoulders and says, "Come on, we're getting drunk."

"Brody," she complains, but lets him lead her away from the board with her name posted on it. Away from all the other people finding out what roles they've got and learning Rachel is going to be the female lead beside their golden boy, senior student Sean Champion.

They go to Callbacks. It's the middle of the afternoon, so the bar isn't full. It's actually rather empty, and Brody finds them a booth in the far corner, orders drinks for them both and then watches as Rachel takes her first sip.

It doesn't make her feel better, but it does make her feel less.

Brody lets her get three drinks deep before he says, "Okay, let it out."

"What?"

"This is a safe space, Rach," he says. "Say whatever you need to say, so we can get through the next few weeks without completely derailing your career."

Rachel's anger spikes, and then shrivels to nothing. "What's there to say?"

"So much, from the look on your face."

Rachel takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. "She's always believed in me," she finally says, the words quiet in the din of the bar. "I didn't see it for what it was when we were younger. She's got a very particular brand of support that - " she stops, laughs softly. "She gets mean about it, acting as if she doesn't care at all, hiding the fact she's self-sacrificing under insults. But she's always known I would get here, and I just - I really just want to tell her that she was right. It wasn't a waste to believe in me."

"Of course, it wasn't," Brody says. "It's not, not at all."

Rachel slides her glass over the table, moving it from one hand to the other. "I miss her, Brody," she says. "I miss her so much, and I treated her so badly, which I hate, but I - "

"Hey." He reaches across the table to stop her fingers. "You know, and I know that this can be fixed. You can call her. You can fix it."

"And then what?" she asks. "What happens then? I can't give her what she wants. Not without - "

Brody takes his hands away. "You also know this isn't healthy," he says. "You know you can't keep going this way. Something is going to have to give, so you're going to have to decide if you're worth it."

Rachel frowns. "You mean if she's worth it?"

"No," Brody says, voice firm and eyes kind. "You. You're the only one I'm concerned about, and you need to decide if you're willing to do what's needed to make yourself happy. If that's fixing things with her, then you need to do it. You just have to want it for yourself as much as the rest of us do."

And, isn't that the crux of it all? As much as she wants it, she's not sure she's allowed to have it. Not now; not after everything.

"That's something only you can do for yourself," Brody tells her. "You just need to ask yourself how much you want it; how much you want her, and how much you're willing to let yourself be happy, with or without her."

It sounds so easy when he says it like that.

Now, all Rachel has to do is listen.


When Lena calls, it's already late in National City, which means it's even later in New Haven. Kara is awake, of course, and she's actually safely tucked away in her apartment for once.

She pauses the episode of Masterchef she's watching, takes a breath, and then answers with a steady, "Lena, hey."

"I need you to talk me down from committing a crime tonight."

Kara sits up on her couch immediately, body tense. "Lena," she says. "What's happening?"

"I found him, you know," she says. "Quinn wouldn't tell me his name, but I found him, and I know what he did to her, and I've been staring at his stupid face since she went to sleep, and I really, really just want to make him disappear."

"Lena," Kara says. "You know you can't do that."

"But he hurt her," Lena says, and her voice sounds strained. "All of these people, they just keep hurting her, and nobody has ever done anything."

"Lena - "

"It's my job now, right?" she continues. "That's what being an older sister is about, right? I'm supposed to have protected her, Kara, but I wasn't there. I wasn't there when she was lost and confused and some boy took advantage of her. I wasn't there. She needed me. She needed someone, and I wasn't there. I wasn't there to protect her."

"Lena?"

"Yes?"

"Do it."

"What?"

Kara closes her eyes. "Do it," she repeats. "Make him disappear."

"What?"

"Do it," Kara says again. "If he hurt Quinn, then he deserves it, right? I wouldn't blame you."

"But - "

"But what?"

"Kara, I did not call you so you could give me the go-ahead to destroy some twenty-one-year-old's life," Lena points out. "You're supposed to do the opposite of that."

"Hey," Kara says. "I have half a mind to track him down myself and scare the bejesus out of him as Supergirl."

"Hmm, you can be intimidating."

"Would that help?" Kara says. "I'm not against doing it, seeing as you're so against dealing with him the old fashioned way."

"I know what you're doing, and I hate that it's working."

"I'm not doing anything," Kara says, and she sounds innocent enough. "I'm saying you should do it."

"You're being ridiculous," Lena dismisses, "I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Because that's not whom I am and, as much as I would love to rid the world of his existence, I can't be judge, jury and executioner. As much as his stupid face demands it." She huffs. "You've been no help at all."

Kara shifts on her couch, relaxing once more. "What happened?"

"Nothing actually happened," Lena says. "It's just that Quinn doesn't drink. At all. I know she's underage, but show me a teenager who hasn't indulged, with or without permission, and I finally asked her why."

Kara can imagine it now, Lena having held in her curiosity until she couldn't anymore, finally asking the question of Quinn. Based on what little Lena has already revealed, the reason can't have been good.

"I thought it would be because of her father," Lena says. "She's mentioned he's an alcoholic before, and I think he was verbally abusive. Maybe even physically, but I don't know how to have that conversation with her." She takes a breath, and Kara wishes she were with her right now. "It was a boy. Just a teenage boy, who plied her with alcohol in order to take advantage of her, and she - the worst part is that she doesn't see it the way I do, or you would. It's almost as if she doesn't see anything horrifically wrong with what happened, and I can't stand it."

Kara honestly doesn't know what to say to her. "What's his name?"

"What?"

"What is his name?" Kara asks, and she can't stand it either.

"Kara?"

"There are ways to make him burn without committing a crime, Lena," she says, already making a note to call Alex. She's not sure how she'll explain herself, but Quinn is Lena's people, which makes her Kara's people. "If he did it once, he's bound to have done it again. We'll get him, don't worry. We just have to get creative."

"What are you thinking?"

Kara leans forward, her mind running. It feels so good to be able to make plans with Lena once more. Even if the world isn't currently at risk - that Kara knows of, at least - Kara will always want Lena on her team.


Rachel knows what day it is - because of course she does - but she'll never bring it up. Not in this loft that's filled with strong, somewhat polarising personalities. It's been more than a month since her last visit to New Haven, and Rachel is itching with her desire to get out of the city.

New Haven is a place to go, but it's also where Quinn is.

Rachel is remaining where she is, unmoving.

She's sitting on the couch, keeping perfectly still as she attempts to watch an old episode of Project Runway. The day, itself, wouldn't mean anything if Rachel weren't very aware that, somewhere in this world, Quinn Fabray is turning twenty, and Rachel isn't with her. She hasn't even wished her.

The problem is she can't quite pay attention to what's on the screen. She has her phone in her hand, finger hovering over the Call button. She hasn't actually called Quinn since her previous birthday, all their recent communication restricted to texting once Quinn input her new number in her phone after the second time Quinn had Rachel in her bed.

Rachel hasn't moved in nearly an hour when Santana comes out of her room and settles on the couch beside her. It's the first sign that something is up, because Santana is rarely this quiet, and she would never just sit beside Rachel with no ill intention.

Rachel braces herself, but all Santana says is, "I can't remember the last time I actually spoke to her." Rachel doesn't have to ask her to whom she's referring, because they both already know. "But I'm pretty sure she called me a bitch."

"She always calls you a bitch."

Santana also has her phone in her hands, turning it between her fingers. "I want to call, but I also don't want to," she says. "I'm just - it's so much easier to be angry at her for not coming than - " she stops. To be angry at myself, is left unsaid, which is something Rachel understands.

Rachel doesn't tell her that it would be no use calling Quinn, because the number Santana has for her is no longer in service. Her new number is out of New Haven, the city established as her new home.

"She probably wouldn't even answer," Santana says, huffing. "She's that kind of person."

Rachel agrees that Quinn wouldn't answer, definitely. Even if Rachel were to call her real number, Quinn might ignore it.

Santana drops her head back against the couch, groaning. "I'm supposed to be done with her."

Well.

It seems Rachel isn't the only one failing at that. Rachel has tried many times, and failed just as many. She just can't seem to let go, and it's killing her not to be able to see her and talk to her and just be with her. "Is that what you told her?" Rachel asks.

"Not in so many words."

Rachel turns her head to look at her. "What happened with you two?"

"What do you mean?"

Rachel knows her own reasons for pulling away from Quinn during the earlier months of this year, but she's never quite understood Santana's. Rachel knows the two of them aren't the kind of friends that require constant contact, but it looked as if the two of them stopped talking even before the summer.

Santana clears her throat. "I think I could have done more," she says, softer than before. "I did a bang-up job during her pregnancy. I just - I should have helped more."

"With what?"

Santana closes her eyes. "You never knew."

"What?"

"You never knew how she felt about you."

Oh.

Oh no.

They really don't need to have this conversation. Not today. Not ever. They've managed to live together for more than a year without actually getting into all the secrets they've been holding.

It is a surprise to them both when Rachel says, "I did."

Her eyes snap open, her head lifting. "What?"

"I knew," Rachel says, and she feels sick just saying the words out loud.

"What?" Santana says again. "You knew? How? Did she tell you?"

"No, she didn't," Rachel says, decidedly not mentioning that she's never quite allowed Quinn to say much of anything when it comes to her feelings. "Finn did."

"What?"

Rachel's never actually told anyone this. Never breathed a word of it to anyone, just carried it with her since the first time he brought up. It was a joke at first, just a passing comment tossed out in irritation when Quinn made another comment about their relationship at the time, and Finn latched onto it and made it his mission to prove it.

Rachel didn't believe him, of course, because the idea that Quinn Fabray could have feelings for her was just preposterous.

And Quinn wasn't even interested in girls. It's the one thing Rachel held onto, until she just couldn't anymore. Not when Quinn confirmed it herself and Rachel's brain short-circuited enough to make her kiss her. And then panic.

Rachel has hated herself every moment since.

"Rachel," Santana says, cutting into her thoughts. "Wait. You're telling me you know? Shit, does Quinn know you know?"

Rachel can't answer that question, because that isn't something she's ever actually spoken to Quinn about, either. They just never had the chance. Rachel made sure not to give it to them.

"I don't know," Rachel says. "Maybe."

Santana sits up, feet flat on the floor. "Is that why you stopped speaking to her?"

"What?"

"She called me, some time in late February, I think, and asked if I knew why you were getting distant." She frowns. "Well, first she asked me if I told you we slept together, which I didn't."

"You kind of did, though."

"I just alluded to it," she defends. "I don't know why Quinn got so mad about it."

"I still found out," Rachel tells her, but definitely doesn't mention the odd sense of betrayal she'd felt when Quinn confirmed it. As if Quinn's first everything with a girl was reserved for her. It was a silly, selfish thought - especially when she and Finn were determined to be inevitable - but she couldn't help it.

And then kissing Quinn for the first time, their lips pressed together for that brief moment, terrified Rachel so much, because -

God. It never felt like that with Finn. One kiss was all it took. Rachel saw those fireworks Finn once talked about, and she just knew - knew it in her very bones - that she would never go back to Finn if she kept kissing Quinn.

Now, well, it's not supposed to matter.

Except that it does, because Finn isn't here, and Rachel can't imagine kissing another human being who isn't Quinn Fabray. She's not sure she'll ever want to.

"But that was after she called," Santana says, bringing Rachel back. "After she visited to get you not to make that ridiculous student film. You really stopped talking to her after that, though. Why? Is that when you knew?"

It would be easy to tell her yes, because Rachel learned something very important that day. She learned the exact thing that caused her to pull away from Quinn, but it's not the thing Santana thinks.

"Yes," Rachel says.

"And you didn't tell her that was the reason?"

"No."

Santana stares at her. "You just stopped talking to her without telling her why?"

"Yes."

"Wow."

Rachel turns her phone over in her hands. "She asked to visit us again five times," she whispers. "For Spring Break."

"She didn't ask me," Santana points out.

"No, she probably didn't," Rachel agrees. Why would she? Rachel was the one who randomly kissed her and then pretended it didn't happen. Rachel was the one Quinn needed to be sure would want her around. "To be fair, though, Kurt and I were still actively trying to get rid of you back then."

"Fucking assholes," Santana mutters, and then sighs. It's heavy with meaning and realisation. "We really are, aren't we?"

Rachel unlocks her phone and brings up Quinn's message thread. "I'm going to text her," she says. "Just wish her a happy birthday."

Santana just watches her, Rachel typing out words she wishes she could be saying to Quinn's face. "Do you think she'd even want to hear from us?"

Absolutely not. Rachel doesn't say the words, but she's thinking them even as she sends the text. A new ache blooms in her chest just at the thought of being so far away from Quinn, but this is what she's chosen.

"Maybe, maybe not," Rachel offers, watching as Santana unlocks her own phone. She pauses, looking unsure.

"I'm going to do it anyway," Santana declares. "Chances are I won't even get a response."

Rachel is the only one of them who actually has Quinn's current number, but she's certain she won't be getting a reply, either.


When Alex eventually loses patience with Kara, it's predictably during a Games' Night that is also Valentine's Day. What her friends are all doing spending the evening with her, she doesn't know, but she's immensely grateful for it, given the decision she and Lena made not to see each other today.

The bouquet Lena sent almost made up for it.

But Alex is clearly suspicious of something. Kara should expect the confrontation, given she's been staring at her phone for more than half the night, but it can't be helped.

Lena is texting her.

Lena is texting her.

She's safely back in National City, currently seated on her couch and listening to music while reading. Kara hasn't mentioned they're having a Games' Night, mainly because these nights don't feel the same as they did when Lena would join them.

Kara's attention is split between her friends and Lena, and she doesn't know how to tell them that she's been working at rebuilding her relationship with the woman. Does she owe it to them to tell them they could work it out with her, as well? It's something she should probably speak to Lena about before she does that.

But Alex is impatient. At least she doesn't bring it up in front of everyone, which Kara appreciates, but it's still not something Kara is ready to talk about.

It's just surprising to Kara when Alex corners her in the kitchen and very purposefully asks, "Is that William?"

Kara almost chokes on the Cheeto she's just put in her mouth. "What?"

Alex raises her eyebrows. "You've been texting someone all night," she points out. "And you've been… acting different the past few weeks. No longer all doom and gloom. It's almost unsettling."

"Alex."

"Are you actually giving him a chance?" she asks, and there's just a hint of incredulity in her voice.

Kara would baulk at the question if she weren't so caught off guard. "What? No, why would you even ask that?"

Alex gives her a very particular look. "You have a certain way about you when you're talking to someone you're romantically interested in," she points out, which sends a ripple of worry through Kara.

If Alex can tell, does that mean Lena can as well?

"I don't know what you're talking about," Kara deflects, and she forces her voice to remain steady. She definitely can't tell Alex about Lena now. It was one thing to go through their friendship pre-Supergirl-revelation and not be aware of the intensity of her own feelings, but Kara is frighteningly aware now.

She had to lose Lena to learn just what the woman has always meant to her.

"Kara," Alex says. "Something is going on with you."

Well, she's not wrong.

"If you don't want to talk about it, fine, but at least pay me the courtesy of not acting as if I'm seeing something I'm not." At Kara's persistent silence, she sighs. "I just - I'm worried. The last time you were like this, you broke your own heart."

Kara's first thought is of Mon-El, because she is the one who sent him away in the end, but Alex is constantly surprising her.

"I just don't want what happened with Lena to happen with someone else."

Kara stares at her for a moment, and then tugs her into a hug. This is her sister, who has given herself the job of protecting Kara from everything that could hurt her, physically, mentally and emotionally. And, after learning about Lena finding her sister later than Kara did, she's definitely more grateful for Alex's presence in her life.

"You don't have to worry about that happening," Kara murmurs against her shoulder. There must be enough conviction in her voice for Alex to believe her, because she pulls back, studies Kara's face, and then drops the topic for the rest of the night.

Kara isn't even lying, because this is Lena, and not someone else.


"Did you hear what happened to Puck?"

Rachel looks up from the music theory textbook she's reading, her finger keeping her place as she gives Santana her undivided attention. "What about Noah?"

Santana is reading from her laptop in front of her. "He got arrested."

Rachel's eyes widen. "What? When? For what?"

Santana keeps reading. "Doesn't say," she says. "His sister just posted on Facebook about it."

"That's crazy," Rachel says, feeling unsettled by the relief she feels. What is that about? "Do you think it's serious?" She knows he spent some time in juvenile detention when they were in high school, but they're no longer minors.

Santana shrugs. "With Puck, who can know?" she says. "Could be joyriding, could be armed robbery. They're raising funds for his bail. Damn. That's a lot of money."

Rachel looks at the words of her textbook, unsure how to feel about this revelation. She's not surprised, because Noah Puckerman can be mean and reckless, but she doesn't actually want him locked away.

Santana closes her laptop and sighs. "I mean, of all the people I expected to get arrested, it would have been him," she says. "Or me."

"You do like to get yourself involved in fights."

"I know you're referring to the fight with Quinn, but that bitch deserved it," she says, huffing. "She's got a killer slap, though."

"I know."

Santana's eyes widen. "What?" she asks. "How do you even know that?"

"She slapped me."

"What? When?"

"Junior Prom."

"Why?"

Truth be told, Rachel doesn't really know why Quinn slapped her. A reaction of some sort, her emotions running high after her Prom Queen loss and the subsequent humiliation. She lashed out at the only person who was there, and Rachel is relieved she was able to be that person for Quinn.

Some place safe.

Just in that moment.

"She just did," Rachel says. "And then immediately apologised."

Santana huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm still waiting for my apology," she says. "She pulled my fucking hair."

"She does that."

"What?"

Rachel feels a blush bloom on her cheeks, because there's really only one way Rachel knows Quinn pulls hair, and there is no way Rachel will ever tell Santana that. "So, Noah?" she questions, changing the topic. "Should we call his mother?"

"And say what?"

"I don't know," Rachel says. "Something."

Santana shakes her head. "I don't think that's a good idea," she says. "Are we supposed to sympathise with her? No fucking way. Whatever he did, he was caught for a reason. We don't need to get involved in all of that."

Rachel would agree, but Santana just keeps speaking, and so Rachel's words die on her lips.

"Quinn must be fucking ecstatic." The words are said offhandedly, like a passing comment, but they hold meaning.

"Why do you say that?"

"The dude's gotta go away for something, right?" she says. "After everything."

"Everything?"

Santana gives her a look, and then very carefully says, "I'm not going to explain it to you." Her gaze is purposeful. "I shouldn't have to."

"What are you - "

"Rachel."

Her mouth snaps shut. She's never really thought about it; just taken it at face value that it was a choice Quinn made. She was always so casual about it, admitting to feeling fat that day, and having to drink the wine coolers Noah provided to go through with it in the end.

She suddenly feels sick.

Rachel turns the page in her textbook and flattens it. "Well, then, I'm ecstatic, too," she says, and Santana says nothing more about it.


Lena: Do you think we can have lunch in my office? I'm not feeling up for public today.

Kara stares at the screen of her phone for a moment. She can practically feel Lena's melancholy through the device, and all she wants is to make it better.

Kara: Do you want me to bring you some Big Belly Burger? 🍔

Lena: Please.

Now, Kara's really worried. Something must have happened. She can't be sure what, but she forces herself not to come up with all the worst case scenarios she can think of.

It's fine.

Lena's fine.

Kara makes sure to buy extra fries and an extra-large milkshake. Donuts, too, just because she gets the feeling Lena needs them.

She's not wrong.

Jess looks very happy to see Kara when she arrives, getting let right up through security and onto Lena's floor. Jess gives her the biggest smile, looking both relieved and excited - which are both expressions Kara's never seen on her face before.

"Thank goodness you're here," Jess says, "she's been in a foul mood all day."

"Did something happen?"

Jess just looks at the food Kara's brought. "You need to go in there," she says. "Do your Kara thing."

"My Kara thing?"

Jess shoos her, gesturing towards the door. "The making-her-smile thing."

Kara nods a little dumbly, and then marches towards Lena's door. She knocks once, waits for Lena's voice, and then pushes inside.

The office hasn't changed. It's still pristine and white and clean and smells like fresh flowers. Lena is seated at her desk, leaning slightly back and staring out her tall windows. She looks sad, solemn and somewhere faraway.

"Lena?"

Her head snaps towards her, as if she's just realised Kara's actually entered her office. "Kara, hi," she says. "Sorry. I'm just - "

"Are you okay?"

Lena's eyes settle on the packets of food in Kara's possession. "What did you bring me?" she asks, managing a smile.

Kara allows her this mercy, settling on the couch and watching as Lena gets to her feet and comes to join her. She unpacks their food, grinning when Lena raises her eyebrows at just how much food Kara has brought for them.

They start to eat in silence, Kara channelling her own nervous energy into chewing rather than asking all her burning questions. Her patience pays off when Lena lets out a long sigh and sets her burger container on the table.

"Quinn isn't talking to me," Lena finally says. "She knows what we did about Puckerman."

Kara's eyes widen. "Did you tell her?"

Lena shakes her head. "We're just - we're the same," she says. "She knows. And now she's not talking to me."

"Did she tell you why?"

"Why what?"

"Why isn't she speaking to you?" Kara asks. "Is it because she's angry? Relieved? Mad because we went behind her back? She could just be wrapping her head around it, Lena. She's a smart kid; she knows this is the best thing."

Lena sighs. "I just hate that she's mad at me," she says. "It's a horrible feeling."

"Sisters go through that all the time," Kara says. "Alex and I once went two whole weeks without talking because she punched this boy who was making fun of me in high school. Broke his nose and got herself suspended from the most important soccer game of her high school career." She frowns. "Wow, I'm still mad about it."

"Really?"

"I mean, she made it a lot worse for me in the end, because she was the best striker they had, and everyone still blamed me for - "

"No, Kara," Lena says, chuckling softly. "I mean, do you think this is just a thing that we're going through?"

"Definitely," Kara says with conviction. "Just give her some time to cool off. You'll see."

Lena just nods. "If you say so."

"I do."

That gets Kara a small smile, and then Lena is reaching for her burger again. "Maybe I should talk to Alex," she says. "Get some advice about what it's like to be an older sister. It's something she also had to learn later in life."

Kara's heart rate doubles. "You'd really want that?" she asks. "To talk to Alex?"

Lena frowns. "Why wouldn't I?"

"Um." Kara fidgets with her glasses. "It's just, well, you were angry with more than just me. And I don't know - I mean, is it okay that I tell them they can contact you? Because they miss you, Lena, so much, and I'm so sorry that my secret broke all of you, but you have to know - it's my fault. I'm sorry. Lena, I'm so sorry."

"Hey," Lena says, leaning forward. "Kara, hey, it's okay. Please, you have to stop apologising like this."

"I need you to know I mean it."

"I do know," Lena says, and now she looks troubled. "I believe you when you say you didn't want to hurt me."

"But I did."

"You did," Lena confirms. "More than I thought you were capable of."

Kara drops her gaze immediately, the ache growing in her gut. "The longer I waited; the worse it got," she whispers. "It was like waiting for the car crash to happen, hoping the wreckage wouldn't destroy us both. It was - Rao, Lena, it was horrible, because I knew - I knew how it felt for you to hate me as Supergirl, and I wasn't ready to face that as Kara Danvers.

"It's the worst thing I've done," Kara says. "Keeping it from you, lying to you, selfishly getting to exist as Kara with you when - when I knew it couldn't last." She breathes out. "Hurting you. Betraying your trust. It is the worst thing I have ever done."

"Do you know the worst thing I've ever done?" Lena cuts in, surprising Kara.

"What?"

"Telling you I wanted you gone when all I've wanted is for you to stay."

Kara's heart stops, which would be worrying if she were actually paying attention to it. "What?"

"My mother told me this was a weakness," Lena says. "Feeling so much. Caring about other people to the point of destruction. It would ruin me to leave myself vulnerable that way, and it nearly did. I thought I was prepared for it, after Lex, but nothing has come close to how it felt to look at you and not recognise the person standing in front of me."

Kara's entire body has gone still.

"You are the very thing my mother warned me about, and I hate that we both proved her right," Lena says. "I hate that you did this to us. I hate that our trust was broken, and that our friendship ended the way it did. I hate that it sometimes feels as if we don't know each other at all. I hate that everything has changed. But please, please never think I could hate you."

"You didn't see it," Kara says. "You didn't see the way you looked at me. As if I was nothing and nobody and not worth anything, and I can't - you have to know I'll never do anything to warrant that look again. I just never want to feel that way again."

"I know, Kara."

"You have to know," Kara repeats, because hurting Lena destroyed Kara, and she can't put them through that again. It's full disclosure from here on out. Understated, maybe, but always the truth. "You have to know, Lena."

"I do know," she says, and then her hand is pressed to Kara's cheek. "I know, Kara." She turns Kara's head, making her face her. "I figured it out."

"What?"

"Everything I thought I knew about my life has been wrong," Lena tells her. "My family, my friends, even the guy at the coffee cart around the corner turned out to be a conman. I'm learning so many new things, and I think - no, I know I'm ready to learn about the real you. Whoever that is."

It feels like a much heavier confession when she whispers, "Sometimes, I don't even know who that is."

Lena's fingers are warm against her skin. "Well, just like you're helping me figure out this whole sister thing, maybe I can help you with this," she says. "We can figure out who you are together."

Which is the moment Kara finally introduces her to Kara Zor-El.


Rachel goes to New Haven.

It's another one of those spur of the moment things, coming out of her last lecture of the day and just knowing she won't be able to go home. Not today.

Not on the day Quinn could have been lost to this world exactly two years ago.

That day was a roller coaster of emotions for a number of reasons, and Rachel has better clarity on it now that she has better context of Quinn's feelings. That question she asked, after they won their Regionals, Rachel already on her way to get married to her high school sweetheart.

Quinn had looked her in the eye and asked, voice shaking, if she was thinking of Finn and only Finn while she was singing Here's To Us by Halestorm. Standing on that stage, every eye on her as she poured her heart and soul into the lyrics. The question hadn't made sense at the time, but of course Rachel was thinking of Finn - even she couldn't accept any other answer - and that should have been that.

It should have been the end of it all. Rachel would marry Finn, Quinn would support it, and all would be well and right and the way it's supposed to.

But then Quinn didn't show up, and Rachel latched onto the fact she wasn't there like a lifeline. Using her lack of attendance as a reason to stall exchanging their vows.

Huh.

It seems Quinn has always played the role of her saviour.

But Rachel doesn't handle this day well. She didn't last year, endlessly texting the blonde until Quinn just called her and talked to her for hours, as if just that was enough to assure Rachel she was really okay. She can't even remember what they talked about, but it was what she needed at the time, and she can't -

She goes to New Haven.

The train ride is both longer and shorter than she remembers, but she arrives late in the afternoon and knows she can't actually go to Quinn. Wherever she is. Whatever she's doing.

Rachel doesn't leave the train station, too worried she won't be able to resist going to Yale. Instead, she finds a coffee shop and orders a soy latte. At a table, she settles in with her drink and her phone, her photo folder open to Quinn's beautiful, heartbreaking face.

In the story of her life, this is when there would be sad, moody music playing, maybe an acoustic cover of a 90's song. It's the part of the movie just before the main character hits that wall and overcomes it: sees something in a window or meets someone from their past to kickstart them into action.

Rachel gets the feeling this isn't that kind of film.


"Were you serious about the karaoke?"

Kara's head snaps up from her laptop's screen, her furrowed brow relaxing when she sees green eyes focused on her. "Excuse me?"

"You mentioned going for karaoke the next time Quinn was here," Lena reminds her. "Were you being serious?"

Kara nods from where she's seated on the couch in Lena's office, her computer on her lap. Lena's still at her desk, but Kara has carefully left space for her to join her if she chooses to. "Sure I was," she says. "When is she coming?"

"Spring Break."

Kara chuckles. "You managed to convince a college student to spend her Spring Break in National City with her older sister and her older sister's best fr - " she stops speaking so suddenly that her body actually jerks, her laptop almost falling to the ground.

Lena just raises one of those perfect eyebrows.

"Sorry," Kara immediately says. "I don't know why I said that."

"It's okay."

"Okay." She returns her gaze to her screen and doesn't say another word. Not even when she hears Lena get to her feet, gather her things and move to claim the other end of the couch.

They used to do this, before. Sometimes, this was the only way Kara would see Lena during the work week, both of them camping out in Lena's office and working side by side. When the entire world imploded, Kara never thought they would get this back again.

Here they are.

"Thank you for your help with Quinn," Lena says. "I realise now that I was overreacting."

"You're still figuring it out."

"I wish there was a book out there called, Surprise! You Have A Little Sister: A Guide on How to Keep Her from Getting Mad at You. That would make my life a lot easier."

"I actually think it exists," Kara says, grinning. "Alex wrote it."

"I should ask her for a copy."

"You should."

Lena's gaze meets hers, eyes full of an emotion Kara can't read. "I don't think I've ever understood what it means to have a best friend," she says. "Maybe Sam is the closest to come to that, something between a great love and family. Someone to care about in a deep, profound way, but someone I could live my daily life apart from, if forced."

That makes sense to Kara. She has best friends like that. Winn, mainly. Lena, too, but it doesn't -

It doesn't quite fit her.

Lena takes a breath. "I could not live my daily life apart from you, Kara," she says.

"You - what?"

"If you need me to repeat myself, I will," Lena says, "but I think you understand me perfectly."

Kara nods, dumb and surprised. "I can't be your best friend."

"No, you can't."

"I see," Kara says. "How am I supposed to refer to you then?"

Lena smiles, gentle. "I like being just Lena to you," she says. "Maybe that's a good place to start. What do you think?"

"I think you're the smartest human being I've ever met."

Lena laughs. "I won't even dream of disputing that statement."


Kurt makes all the arrangements for Spring Break, the three of them deciding they can actually afford a trip home to Lima. Rachel and Kurt are the only ones who went back to Ohio over their Winter Break, and it was a stressful time knowing they left Santana alone in their loft to do goodness-knows-what.

But they needed to go, because it was the first holiday season without Finn and it was hard on them all. Particularly Carole, who cried more than Rachel thought was even possible. It was just a sad Christmas for all of them. Worse than their Thanksgiving.

It was Burt who tried to inject some joy and festivity into them, but Rachel was also dealing with the end of whatever she and Quinn had been doing, and it all just capitulated into a horrid, horrific few weeks for her.

Spring Break needs to be better.

And, from the way it starts, Rachel just knows it's going to be worse. Their departure comes at them really quickly, Rachel buried under rehearsals and midterms until Kurt marches into her bedroom, removes her suitcase from under her bed and starts packing her clothes for her.

Rachel is still recovering from her latest monologue exam performance, trying to nap before she has her last musical rehearsal tonight before the Break. She's sluggish to stop him, squawking a little at the invasion of privacy.

It's as he's easily saying, "We have no secrets from each other," that a ticket stub falls out of one of her jacket pockets, floating to the ground and catching his attention.

Rachel isn't quick enough, springing from her bed as fast as she can before he can -

Kurt bends to pick it up, reads the words and then frowns. "New Haven?" he says, sounding perplexed. "Why do you have a ticket stub from a train ride to New Haven, Rachel? It's dated like three weeks ago." His mind turns that over. "Oh, my God, did you go and see her?"

Now, Rachel has considered this moment several times, wondered what it would be like to have the truth of her whereabouts exposed. She thought she might break down and reveal everything, but she can't. "I didn't see her," Rachel says, which is the truth. She didn't see Quinn on that trip, which doesn't make this a lie. "I just went to New Haven."

"Why?"

"Because the city was starting to get overwhelming and I needed to go somewhere else," she admits, which is also the truth.

"And you chose New Haven?" he asks, his voice high. "You couldn't have picked anywhere else. What if she'd seen you?"

Rachel rolls her eyes, finding her bearings. "Don't be ridiculous, Kurt," she says. "It's a big city. I didn't even go anywhere near Yale. There was no way I was going to see her." It's the mistake she makes, phrasing it that way, because she can't keep the longing out of her voice.

Kurt's expression shifts. "But you wanted to," he accuses. "Oh, my God, you wanted to see her, didn't you?"

And she's just so tired. So very exhausted by all of this. "Yes," she answers. "Yes, Kurt, I did want to see her." She's wanted nothing else for months now. She would give anything to be able to see her right now.

He looks so surprised, and Rachel can only wonder how that could be. "Why?" he asks. "Why would you want that? After everything she's done."

This is the part that's always baffled Rachel, because she can't figure out why he seems to hate Quinn as much as he does. It doesn't make sense to her.

"And what exactly has she done?" Rachel asks.

Kurt halts, his expression freezing on his face. "What?"

"What has she done?" Rachel presses. "What was so horrific that the idea of even seeing her makes you lose your mind over it?"

Kurt opens his mouth, closes it, and then opens it again. "She wasn't there," he finally decides.

"Okay," she says, because that was enough to anger her to the point that she wanted to go the rest of her life not seeing Quinn, as well. But then her anger faded, and it was replaced with such a deep sense of loss that she's still not sure how she's still breathing. "But other people weren't there either, and you still talk to them."

"It's different," he counters. "They eventually called. They had excuses for not showing up. Ones that weren't because they're just some selfish, heartless bitch." He spits the words, harsh and cruel, and Rachel realises there's no reasoning with him.

"I'm sure you wasted no time in letting her know exactly how you felt," she says, recalling some of the posts on Quinn's Facebook page before it went dark.

"Of course," he says. "And I was right. I've always been right about her."

Rachel shakes her head, deflating. "Yeah. Okay, Kurt." She gestures at her own suitcase. "I can do this myself, thank you."

Kurt gives her a searching look, trying to figure out her feelings on the situation. It's disappointing that there doesn't seem to be a way for him to understand, because she knows he's going to continue to be a voice in her ear that would make it even more difficult to be with Quinn, if that were something she was willing to try for.

It also really doesn't help that he rallies Santana into the same mindset, though she appears more thoughtful than anything. As if she wishes Rachel had seen Quinn, if only to relay information about her well-being back to her.

She's definitely quieter about it, even telling Kurt to shut up about it when he harps on and on as they're boarding their flight. Rachel's plan is to put in her earphones and shut them both out. She doesn't need any more of this guilt-trip, and they don't even know that she's actually seen Quinn and touched Quinn and kissed her and loved her.

Rachel settles into her seat and gets ready for take-off. She can't wait to see her fathers; to get wrapped up in their arms and hear them say everything is going to be okay. She just needs the comfort of them.

The problem is that they drop off Kurt first, and Santana drags Rachel inside after him to greet both Carole and Burt, muttering something about getting it over with so they won't have to see them again during the week.

It's the smart thing to do, and it goes perfectly fine until the moment Carole picks up on the tension between Kurt and Rachel. She's the kind of woman who has lost both a husband and a son in one lifetime, so she isn't the kind just to leave things be.

They're in the kitchen, standing around the island, when she says, "Okay, what's up with you two?"

Kurt glares at Rachel for a beat, and then says, "She went to New Haven," as if she's committed the biggest sin.

Carole looks perplexed. "And was she not supposed to?"

"Quinn is in New Haven," Kurt explains, which further baffles Carole.

"I still don't understand," Carole says. "Is there something wrong with Rachel seeing Quinn?"

"Everything is wrong with that," he says, exasperated, and Rachel wonders if there's something she's missing here.

"Why?" Carole questions, looking at all three of them.

"She wasn't at the funeral," Santana says. "None of us have heard from her, and we don't even know why she didn't bother to come."

Carole very simply says, "I do."

The breath catches in Rachel's throat, and both Kurt and Santana look equally as startled. Kurt takes a step towards her. "You do what?"

Carole still looks a little lost. "I know why she wasn't at his funeral," she says. "She called me as soon as she found out, passed on her condolences and apologised for not being able to pay her respects with the rest of us."

"What?" That's Santana, whose eyes are wide.

"Why are you all so surprised?" Carole questions. "Surely she would have told you as well. It was such an unbelievable thing that happened."

"What?" It's Kurt's turn now, and he looks pale.

Carole looks between them again, a crease in her brow. "She didn't tell you," she guesses. Then: "Oh, that makes a lot more sense."

And now it's Rachel's turn. "What?"

"Whenever she calls, she always asks that I not mention it to anyone," Carole says. "I wasn't sure why until right now." She shakes her head. "It's a shame, really. She could have probably used a friend through all of that."

Nobody can think of anything to say, but Carole doesn't appear to require a response. Instead, she asks if they want some tea, and Santana says that her family is expecting her home.

"I should probably get going, as well," Rachel says a beat later.

Carole gives her a very particular look, as if she knows something Rachel doesn't. She might, of course, because Rachel can't help feeling as if she currently knows nothing. "You'll come see me before you leave, won't you?"

Rachel nods, because she can't exactly say no. She's not sure she will, though, because she's starting to get the impression Carole Hudson-Hummel is going to give her the one thing she's not sure she's ready for.


Kara gives Quinn and Lena three full days together before she texts Lena about karaoke. They've made tentative plans already, one of the nights confirmed for the event, but Kara just -

There is no clear explanation for what she's feeling. This weird desire to be involved. Just to spend time with Lena - and Quinn, by extension. She knows they spent a night in Sacramento visiting Quinn's family, but they're back now, and Kara needs to see Lena.

Lena: Friday night for karaoke, definitely, but would you like to join us for lunch tomorrow?

Lena: Quinn freaked out when she found out about the bacon restaurant downtown, and I promised I would take her. (Bacon is to her what potstickers are to you.)

Kara agrees in a heartbeat, which is really how she finds herself sitting across from Lena, with Quinn to her right at a restaurant named, The Holy Hog.

"I'm in heaven," Quinn keeps saying, eyes glued to her menu. Lena keeps shooting amused looks at Kara, the two of them in on some secret. "Oh, my God, they wrap the burger in bacon. Wait. Holy shit, they wrap the burger buns in bacon." She lifts her gaze to look at Lena. "I can't believe you let me cook for you when this place exists. I'm never leaving."

This time, when Lena looks at Kara, she winks. Oh. Kara sees what Lena's doing: already laying down the foundation to convince Quinn to pick National City after graduation. Sneaky.

"Don't tell Rachel, though," Quinn says, eyes a little wide.

Kara looks at Lena, asking questions.

"The special friend," Lena explains. "She's vegan. And Jewish."

Kara can't help her laugh. "Wow." She reaches for a bacon-dusted bread roll in front of her. "I can't imagine that. I love all food."

Lena very purposefully clears her throat.

Kara flushes. "Except kale," she adds. "And vegetables in general. But mostly kale. I'm convinced it's not meant to be eaten."

"It's a super food," Quinn says, almost too lightly, and Kara chokes on her bite of roll. Quinn looks alarmed by the display, but Lena just looks very amused.

Kara coughs, drinks some water, and then says, "You two really are related."

"Because we like kale?" Quinn asks.

"And hate pickles," Kara adds, which makes them exchange a look.

"How do you know that?" Quinn asks her.

Kara shrugs. "You picked them out of your sandwich in Ireland. I bet Liz doesn't like them, either."

Quinn gives her a searching look, but Lena's gaze is softer. She doesn't even know what to do with herself when Lena is looking at her like that.

"Speaking of Liz," Quinn says, "has she mentioned someone named Phillip to either of you?"

Lena frowns. "No," she says, "Who's Phillip?"

"I think our grandmother has found herself a beau," Quinn tells them, and then proceeds to explain her theory based on gathered evidence through her video calls with Liz.

When their server comes to take their order, Quinn chooses the bacon-wrapped burger, and then doesn't even blink out of sync at the side of the order Kara puts through. Doesn't even tease Lena about her Caesar salad.

In any other situation, Kara might find the entire situation awkward, like someone looking in, but there's an ease to Quinn that Kara feels with Lena, and she can't realistically say it's owed to the fact they're related.

Quinn is involved in the conversation Kara and Lena are having about the upcoming mind-controlled wheelchair launch right until their food arrives. Then she's silent, her entire focus on the mess of a burger Kara's worried she'll force herself to finish just on principle. It's actually rather cute.

"Would you mind if Alex came?" Kara finds herself asking. "On Friday."

Lena's fork freezes on its way to her mouth. "Just Alex?"

"And Kelly, maybe, but she's more of a sit-back-and-watch-people-make-fools-of-themselves-in-front-of-a-bunch-of-strangers kind of person."

"She does have a lot of blackmail footage, doesn't she?"

Kara nods, allowing Lena the time to process the suggestion. "I haven't told her we're, um, talking again," she says. "Alex, I mean. I just - I didn't want to put any kind of pressure on you, and she can be - " she stops, unsure how to explain how Alex can be. "She can be very Alex."

Lena considers her words. "Maybe I should call her some time this week," she says. "Just to clear the air, I don't know. So that the first time we talk isn't over drinks and bad singing."

"Hey," Quinn cuts in. "I'll have you know I'm a rather decent singer."

"Of course, dear," Lena says, gently patting her arm. "I'm really looking forward to the duet you and Kara sing."

"Your tone tells me otherwise," Quinn mutters, and then takes another bite of her massive burger.

Lena looks at Kara. "Can I let you know how the call goes, and then we can discuss it again?"

Kara nods. "That sounds good."

Quinn leans forward. "Wait. Can Alex sing?"

"Oh yeah," Kara tells her. "She was in a band in high school and parts of college."

"Damn," Quinn says, "She's already cooler than you."

Lena laughs, and Kara pretends to be affronted. She would be more offended if she didn't agree with Quinn.

"Yeah," Kara says, "She definitely is."


Rachel waits until the second last day before they head back to New York City to visit Carole. She makes sure Kurt is out of the house visiting Mercedes when she goes to the house, Carole opening the door and looking pleased to see her.

This time, when Carole offers her tea, Rachel accepts. They end up sitting at the kitchen table together, a plate of oat cookies between them that Rachel won't touch.

Carole asks her about school first, and Rachel tells her about the production she's in, voice steady and holding just a hint of the pride she feels.

"It sounds like a big deal," Carole comments.

"It is," she confirms. "I'm the only sophomore in the main cast."

Carole smiles, big and Finn-like. "Oh, he would be so proud of you," she says. "Always used to talk about how talented you are, and how big a star you were going to become."

Rachel smiles sadly at the mention of Finn. "He did believe in me," she says. "It's one of the reasons we went on our break after graduation. He believed in me so much that he let me go."

For a while.

For not nearly long enough.

"You were both so young," Carole says, shaking her head. "I know you heard it enough, but I believe you can see yourselves clearer now. Marriage was never right for you. Not then."

As much as it pains her to say, Carole is right. Her fathers, Kurt, Quinn, they were all right. "I know," she says. "We weren't ready."

"No, you weren't," Carole says. "One day, maybe."

"Not anymore."

Carole's own smile is sad. "I think that's okay," she says. "Plans change. Life happens and it never quite works out the way we thought it would."

"I used to have my future all figured out," Rachel tells her, and she's referring to her changed plan, when she ended up finding her leading man in high school and intended to hold onto (the idea of) him. "I would take on Broadway, he would become the best teacher McKinley ever saw, and when we were ready, it would feel like coming home."

Carole watches her carefully. "It's okay if that's changed," she says. "It's also okay if it changed while he was still alive, Rachel."

There it is. It hits her quite sharply. The guilt.

"I couldn't tell him," she whispers, anchored by the confession. "I just - I couldn't tell him it wasn't what I wanted anymore." She releases a shaky breath. "Because I could never tell him what I wanted instead."

She's never said it out loud; never quite put words to the way it feels to be around Quinn. Because Rachel never quite found a 'home' in Finn, not like she does in Quinn. It's the part that scared her the most back in March, when Quinn was confirming she did, in fact, like girls, and Rachel was stuck wanting nothing more than to spend her days kissing Quinn but was shackled by a promise she made to her high school boyfriend.

"And what is that?"

"Someone else," she admits. "Someone I promised him I would never want." There. There's the final, heaviest promise. Weighing on her in a way that feels endless.

Carole considers her seriously. She must know. She's a smart lady, so Rachel is convinced she knows.

If she's spoken to Quinn, she has to know.

"Oh, Honey," Carole murmurs, and Rachel feels tears pool in her eyes.

"I don't know what to do," she says, more to herself. "I don't know how to make it better."

Carole leans forward, her hand reaching across the table and resting it over one of Rachel's. "I know you loved my son," she says. "You can't know what it means as his mother that he was able to experience a love like that in his life."

Rachel's breath catches.

"And you know he loved you," she adds; "but it was not fair to you." Her fingers curl around Rachel's and gently squeeze. "It wasn't fair to either of you."

No, it wasn't.

She's just glad someone else has said it.

"It is also not fair that you are meant to keep all your promises to him when he won't be able to do the same," Carole says, and Rachel feels every nerve that's been tightly coiled within her just… uncoil.

It's been months of holding herself so tensely, just waiting and waiting, needing someone to release her from this prison of her own making. Their own making.

"Is that what you needed to hear?" Carole asks like it's a secret.

"I just didn't want him to be disappointed in me," she says in response. It's the last thing she wants, even if he's not here.

"I think you were young and in love and made promises to a boy who made promises in return," she says. "I believe you meant them at the time, but life has a nasty habit of happening while you're busy making plans. I mean, look at who we are and where we are. I never imagined I would end up here when I was your age, but I am." She looks around the kitchen. "I found love a second time."

Rachel would argue it's different, because she didn't meet Burt while her first husband was still alive. Said husband also didn't make her promise never to be with him.

"I don't know how much Finn told you about his father," Carole says. "But he too made promises to me, and I made promises to him. But he's gone and, at some stage, I had to accept that he would want me to be happy, regardless of how or who or when. If I know my son, and I did, then I know he would want the same thing for you, too."

"But - "

"You have to do what will make you happy," Carole says. "Even if that means doing the hard thing and putting yourself first. You're young. It's what you're supposed to do."

"Carole?"

"It's okay," she says. "I promise it's okay."

"Carole?"

"This is not a promise he would want you to keep if it would make you miserable," Carole tells her. "You know exactly what you need to do to fix that."

"Are you sure?"

"You deserve happiness," Carole says. "You both do." And the way her eyebrows dip tells Rachel all she needs to know. Of course, Carole knows. Then: "Like I said, she could really use a friend right now."

Rachel's eyes widen at the confirmation.

Carole smiles. "You should take some of these oat cookies for her," she adds. "She really loves them - craved them so much when she lived here."

"And you're just okay with this?" Rachel asks, in disbelief. "With her?"

"We've done a lot of talking the past few years," Carole explains. "We understand each other a lot better. I assume the same holds for the two of you."

Rachel looks down at her hands. "I've already ruined it," she whispers.

"That may be so," Carole says, not sugar-coating it. "But you won't know for sure unless you try. The oat cookies will get you through the door, but I'm afraid you'll have to do the rest."

"Why are you so okay with this?"

"Because you were my son's love," she says. "Why wouldn't I want you to be happy now that he's gone?"

"You're probably the only one who feels that way."

"Well, then, I'm the only one who counts," she says, which settles in Rachel's brain and allows her to believe it.

By the time Rachel leaves, she has a container of Quinn's favourite cookies and a half-baked plan. Okay, so maybe she has no plan at all, but she still goes home and packs her suitcase. She'll explain herself at another time, but there's somewhere she needs to be and she needs to be there right now.

First, she needs to be at the airport.

It's one of those spur of the moment things, Rachel's brain making her take spontaneous trips to who knows where just to see Quinn. She has to see Quinn. She needs to change her flight to New York and go to -

Rachel stops walking right in the airport, her brain churning and her heart pounding. It would be simple to switch her plane ticket to New Haven, but she gets the feeling she won't find Quinn there.

Before she does that, she takes out her phone, pulls up Instagram and searches for Frannie Fabray's profile for any sign that Quinn is currently in Sacramento.

She finds nothing, and Judy's profile shows no evidence of Quinn, either. So, not in Sacramento. It feels odd to look up Lena Luthor, but it ends up being the smartest thing. There's no actual picture of Quinn, but Lena has posted a shot of her view from her balcony, and there are a pile of books on the table that Rachel just knows belong to Quinn.

She wouldn't go anywhere without her prized copy of Alice in Wonderland.

Rachel checks for a location, her eyes widening when she finds it. Okay, so not anywhere near New Haven.

She's determined, though. This is the part of the movie where Rachel flies across the country and makes some romantic gesture to get back into Quinn's good graces while Natasha Beddingfield plays. It would be simpler just to wait until Quinn is back in New Haven, but Rachel wants to see her right now.

Needs to see her right now.

So, not New York, either.

It appears she's going to National City.

Chapter Text

ix. be still, my foolish heart (don't ruin this on me)

So far, Lena would call the night something of a success. The most important people in her life are here with her, and they're smiling. Lena feels relaxed, present, and just a little tipsy.

Not too much, though, because she's very conscious of Quinn and Quinn's aversion to alcohol. She did confess, once, that she's not against a glass wine, if the occasion calls for it, but she's not going to indulge in public. At least now she can just say she's a law-abiding citizen and claim she's too young.

At least, that's what Quinn told Alex, and then laughed nervously when Alex mentioned that was definitely the right thing to say, given Alex is an FBI Agent.

Hah.

Quinn is fascinated by it, though, and she tells Alex about the work they're covering in one of her classes about the experiences of women in male-dominant professions. They settle into a conversation easily, Kelly chipping in whenever she can, which allows Lena to focus a lot of brain power on the fact Kara is sitting very close to her.

Obscenely close.

Lena wasn't really worried the night would end in disaster. Not after she and Alex had an hour-long conversation that consisted of Alex asking, does this mean you're ready now?, and Lena telling her, yes, before they talked about the latest Stephen King novel for the rest of the call.

Lena isn't under the illusion everything is just going to be fine between them, because that isn't how life works. They'll need to talk more, of course, but this feels like a start for her and Alex. And Kelly, Lena supposes, who has made a point of not once bringing up James.

Lena's not quite ready for that.

"Okay, who's up first?" Kara asks, clapping her hands and doing a little jiggle in her seat. Before anyone can say anything, she adds, "Shotgun singing with Quinn first."

Alex rolls her eyes. "Of course you'd go for the one who's shiny and new," she says; "Not like I've been here for years."

"I have it on good authority that she's a good singer," Kara tells Alex, grinning.

"Well, now I'm feeling the pressure," Quinn says, her eyes bright. "What if I actually do suck, hmm? I've been told I go sharp, sometimes."

"You'll still be better than Kelly," Alex jokes, which gets her a swat to the arm from her girlfriend. "Sorry, sorry." Then she winks. "Still true."

It's almost worrying just how easy it all is. Lena wonders if she should be more cautious. It's just that the worst thing that could happen has already happened and she's managed to survive it. At this point, she's convinced she could handle anything and everything else.

Hah.

Famous last words.

Quinn is a dirty liar, because she's much more than a 'rather decent' singer, and the song she sings with Kara - a Katy Perry number, apparently - has the entire bar paying attention. Lena doesn't even know which one of them to look at, caught between how young and at ease Quinn appears after the few months she's had, and Kara, who is just so unfairly gorgeous just existing.

Alex and Kara take on an *NSYNC song next, which Quinn finds endlessly amusing. Lena orders platters of wings and jalapeño poppers for the table, cementing her position at the table with Kelly as the other three cycle through singing various duets whenever they have the opportunity.

Lena's just hoping Quinn and Kara don't gang up on her and use their collective powers to convince her to go up on stage. She's not against karaoke, not at all, but she's not nearly drunk enough, and she doesn't actually want to remember making a fool of herself.

In hindsight, choosing not to indulge too much proves to be a good decision.

It's while Quinn is still on stage with Alex that Lena feels Kara stiffen at her side. Her head tilts a little to the left, which is an action Lena now recognises as her listening for something far away.

When her eyes widen, Lena already knows she needs to leave.

"I'm sorry," Kara starts, but she's already sliding out of the booth. "I'm not sure what it is, but there are people screaming. I think they're trapped in something. I'm just going to check it out. I'll be back soon."

Lena can see from just the manic look in her eye that she needs Lena to be okay with this. She needs Lena to tell her she can go and do her job and be Supergirl, and know that Lena will still be here.

"Go," Lena tells her. "I'll order you some nachos for when you get back."

Kara gives her one last look, and then she's getting to her feet and looking at Kelly. "Please tell Alex I caught a lead," she says. "I shouldn't be too long. Ten minutes, tops." And then she's gone, Lena watching her disappear in the crowd and the dim light.

Ten minutes would have been lovely.

Quinn and Alex end up singing two songs while they're up there, choosing some early 00's rock songs and getting the entire bar to join in with them. They're both a little giggly when they head back to the booth, and Alex slides in next to Kelly, an arm immediately going around her shoulders.

Alex looks around. "Where's Kara?"

Kelly simply says, "She caught a lead," and the ease in Alex's shoulders disappears in an instant. She maintains her smile, though, as she shakes her head.

"The reporter in her just never switches off," she mutters, already reaching for her phone for some kind of update.

Lena is staring right at her when she reads whatever is on her phone, so she catches the widening of her eyes and the way her mouth presses into a thin line. A beat later, she's on her feet and looking remarkably sober.

"I have to go," she says, reaching for her leather jacket. "I'm going to kill her," she mutters.

"What?" Kelly asks. "What's wrong?"

"That fucking lead Kara was talking about," Alex hisses, taking out a bunch of notes that Lena would wave away if she weren't so focused on what Alex is saying. "It was a trap." Her gaze meets Lena's, the only other person in this booth who knows that when she says, "For Supergirl," it's extremely important.

"Whoa," Quinn says, eyes wide. "Is she okay?"

It's the fact Alex doesn't answer that prompts Lena to get to her feet, as well, and say, "I'm coming with you."


Quinn has never actually existed in National City apart from Lena. It's unsettling, mainly because of the tension she can pick up in both Alex and Lena. She's tempted to ask, but Lena shifts from the easy, soft Lena and turns into business-mode Lena in the blink of an eye that Quinn won't risk it.

Lena has Frank take Quinn back to the penthouse when she leaves with Alex, apologising quietly and asking her to go straight home. She looks worried enough that Quinn agrees without protest.

It's on their way back that she finally checks her phone and sees several texts from Rachel. It's so jarring to see her name there that Quinn actually swears out loud. Frank glances at her in the rearview mirror, and then chuckles when Quinn ends up blushing. "Oh, I've heard Miss Luthor say a lot worse than that."

"Is she going to be okay?" Quinn finds herself asking. "That seemed pretty weird, all of it."

"Sometimes, you just have to roll with it," Frank tells her. "We live very exciting lives here in National City."

"Because of Supergirl?"

"Because of a lot of things," Frank says. "Miss Luthor does seem to have a habit of getting herself into tricky situations."

"I think she's been kidnapped something like seventeen times," Quinn muses. "That they've reported on, at least."

"I'm sure it's up to thirty by now," Frank says, and he sounds far too calm about it. "The first time was when I was just starting out at the Manor. I think she was just five years old then. Kidnapped for ransom then, but now it's become about all this family nonsense she's found herself in recently."

For a frightening moment, Quinn thinks he's referring to her, but then she remembers all the other articles she's read about Lex and Lillian Luthor.

Frank looks at her in the rearview mirror again. "But things seem to be looking up now that she's found you."

She blushes again, ducking her head and finally looking at her phone again. She's successfully distracted enough not to keep panicking about the fact -

Rachel is texting her.

Quinn takes a deep breath, unlocks her phone to open Rachel's messages. Steels herself enough to read them silently, and then swears again.

Frank laughs this time. Then: "Is something wrong, Miss Fabray?"

"Um."

"What is it?"

Quinn can hardly believe what she's read. "Is it possible to go past L-Corp?" she asks. "My, um - there's someone there. Looking for me." She shakes her head and drops her voice to a whisper. "God, she's out of her mind. Why am I in love with a crazy person?"

"Excuse me?"

"L-Corp, Frank," Quinn says. "Please."

For the first time, he looks uncertain, and Quinn almost takes back the request. But then his expression settles. "Quickly," he says, and then takes the first left they come up to. He speeds up just a little, and Quinn almost wants to tell him to slow to a crawl. She needs more time to prepare herself.

What on Earth is Rachel doing here?

And she is here, seated on a bench in front of the building with her suitcase at her side, her phone in her hand and a bouquet of flowers in her lap. Quinn's heart lodges itself in her throat just at the sight of her.

"I take it she's whom we're here for," Frank says, pulling up to the curb and bringing the car to a stop. "Should I get her suitcase?"

Quinn has no idea. "I just - let me talk to her first. I don't know what she's doing here."

"I'll be right here," Frank says.

Just knowing that settles some of Quinn's anxiety, because Rachel is here, in National City, wanting to see her. And she has flowers.

It's quite late for her to be sitting out in the open, and Quinn would berate her for it if she wasn't feeling so tongue-tied. She takes a breath, steeling herself, and then opens the door and gets out of the car.

Rachel sees her immediately and gets to her feet, the flowers almost sliding off her lap before she grabs them. She just stands there, silently staring.

Quinn closes the door behind her and steps forward. She has many questions, but none of them is coming to the forefront. Really, all she wants to do is cross the space between them and hug her close. Hug her forever.

"Quinn," Rachel finally says. "You're here."

"So are you."

"I - yes," Rachel says. "It seems I am."

"What are you doing here?"

"Well," Rachel says, "there are a number of reasons." She shifts her weight from her one foot to the other, looking nervous. "First, um, I just had to tell you I'm sorry, Quinn. I am so, so sorry."

"For what?"

Rachel opens her mouth to reply, but nothing comes out. Maybe there's no single thing. It's a list of things. So, instead, she says, "I figured it out." Takes a step forward. "I'm sorry it's taken me so long, but I've figured it out."

"Figured what out? What are you talking about? What are you doing here?"

She takes another step forward, takes a breath, and then says, "I love you."

The world stops.

Not even in one of those cliché ways. The world actually stops, and not only because Rachel has admitted to feelings Quinn wasn't sure she even had.

It stops because Supergirl literally falls from the sky and crashes into the road behind them. Pieces of tar and concrete fly up, the impact knocking Quinn forward and right off her feet. She lands hard, but scrambles back up immediately, her eyes on Rachel, who's also fallen over.

Rachel stares at her in shock, but she's also back to her feet, looking unharmed. Quinn turns to look at Frank, who's stumbling out of the car now, which is now half on the curb side. There's a treacle of blood down the side of his face, and he looks shaken but still standing.

Quinn looks past him at the crater in the middle of the road, sucks in a breath, and then she's moving. Running. Jumping over debris to get to Supergirl, who hasn't moved a muscle. Quinn's brain is rushing through what she remembers of her first aid course. Can you give a super-powered alien CPR?

Quinn trips several times, but then she's kneeling at Supergirl's side, her two fingers pressed to her neck. There's a pulse, barely there, and Quinn breathes out in relief.

"Hey," she says, hands unsure what to do next. Despite falling from the sky, she looks unhurt but covered in dirt, but she's still not moving. She also looks so young; younger than Quinn thought she would.

"Quinn, is she okay?" Rachel asks from somewhere above and behind her. "The man from the car is calling for help. What even happened?"

Unbidden, Quinn tilts her head to look to the sky, but it's just dark up there, giving nothing away. A sound catches her attention, and she looks back down, just now noticing the grimace taking over Supergirl's face.

"Oh, thank God," Quinn says, already hearing sirens in the distance. "This would have been really awkward if you didn't wake up, you know? I don't want to be famous for not being able to resuscitate you."

Supergirl's mouth twists as she continues to wake, her senses coming back online.

"Hey," Quinn says, thinking the best thing to do is keep talking. She remembers waking up from her car accident and being very confused until a nurse started explaining what was happening. "You're okay," she says. "Um. You kind of fell from the sky, and you've been out for about a minute. I'm not really sure what happened before you landed - that looked like it hurt, by the way - but, um, whoever you were fighting hasn't shown up, so that must be a good thing, right?"

When her eyes do open, Quinn is forced to acknowledge that she's currently speaking to Supergirl. Like, she's kneeling right beside arguably the most famous woman in the country and just talking to her.

"Whoa," Quinn says, hands reaching out. "Don't move, okay? Help is coming."

Her blue eyes blink up at Quinn, and then she tries to sit up. Quinn isn't even surprised, so she attempts to help instead of wasting her breath trying to stop her.

"Wait, I think you're bleeding," Quinn says, her left hand coming away wet. She bends forward to get a better look at her side, just now seeing the deep gash there, a visible slash in her suit. "Okay, that's a lot of blood. You're bleeding. I didn't know you could bleed. Please stop moving." She removes her jacket and then her sweater, which she presses against the gash.

Supergirl hisses in pain, which is honestly just so wild to Quinn. Isn't she meant to be bulletproof?

"I know, I'm sorry," Quinn says, anyway. "I just don't want you to bleed out."

"Where am I?" she asks, speaking for the first time, and Quinn's mouth snaps shut. She's never really thought about what Supergirl's voice would sound like in person, but it's not that.

"Um, you're in front of L-Corp," Quinn tells her. "Landed in the road, though, so I'm pretty sure you're going to have a pissed off CEO's complaints to deal with."

She looks up. "Lena," she breathes, and the way she says Lena's name is -

It feels too private; not for Quinn's ears, and holds such meaning that Quinn suspects there's a lot of history there.

"She's coming," Quinn says, though she's not completely sure. She still knows it, though, because the sirens are getting closer and she knows Lena will be with them. "She'll be here soon."

Supergirl nods, her eyes still unfocused. "What are you doing here?" she asks, as if she knows Quinn is somewhere she's not meant to be.

Quinn glances around. "To be honest, Supergirl, you kind of interrupted what was about to be a very important conversation," she says, gaze landing on Rachel, who is still standing and watching them, concern in her eyes, the flowers hanging limp at her side.

"Oh no."

Quinn shifts her weight, pressing her hand harder against Supergirl's wound. She squirms, but Quinn won't ease up. "Yeah," she says. "Maybe it's a good thing. I'm not sure what I was going to say, anyway."

Supergirl looks at her. "Sure you do," she says.

"Maybe," Quinn agrees, but she's not really thinking about that right now. Instead, she's focused on the woman in front of her, because that's easier than dealing with her, um, special friend.

When the cars arrive with flashing lights, Quinn can't help her relief. "Okay, help's here," she says, the twenty muscles in her forearm starting to ache.

"Lena?" Supergirl says again, but she looks as if she's losing consciousness again.

Quinn looks over her shoulder, searching for Lena in the faces of people moving into view. "She's coming. She'll be here soon." Her eyes keep scanning the face, and she ends up seeing Alex first, whose own expression is unreadable.

People descend on them quickly after that. Quinn is unceremoniously pushed aside as black-clad human beings start attending to Supergirl, who is slumping over now.

Quinn gets even further out of the way, her fingers cold and still wet. She staggers to her feet, just managing to grab her jacket before it gets trampled on. She's probably not going to get her sweater back.

Damn. She really liked that sweater.


Lena has been in some impossible situations in her lifetime, but nothing can quite prepare her for pulling up in front of L-Corp to find a crater right in the middle of the road, Kara in said crater, Quinn covered in Kara's blood and -

And Rachel.

It takes a moment for her mind to calibrate, but then she's kicking into gear. She has to stop herself from running straight towards Kara, moving to the edge of the crater to see her and just -

Kara's sitting up, just barely, and her eyes are searching for something. Someone. Lena doesn't realise that someone is her until blue eyes meet hers, and the world stops. All the hubbub around them fades to nothing, just for a moment. Kara smiles, small and almost unnoticeable, and then Alex is blocking their endless stare when her body hunches over Kara.

Lena takes a breath.

She knows Alex can handle Kara, who is clearly and reassuringly awake, so Lena moves over to where Quinn is just coming out of the crater, looking pale and bloody.

Lena's eyes search her body to make sure she's actually unharmed, and then she's tugging her into a hug, uncaring of the mess. "What are you doing here?" she asks, because Quinn is supposed to be at home. She is not supposed to be anywhere near here.

Quinn leans back, looking over Lena's shoulder. "Rachel," she says, as if that explains everything. It might. "She's here."

Ah.

Lena wasn't actually imagining her.

A paramedic comes over to check on Quinn, who waves him off and directs him to Frank, who is seated on a bench and pressing the tip of his tie to his temple. Lena watches the paramedic attend to him for a while, and then looks back at Quinn, whose brow is creased as she watches them pull Kara out of the crater.

"What?" Lena says, suddenly nervous.

"Nothing," she says, shaking her head as if trying to clear it. "Just, you know, what a night, right?"

Lena nods, eyes on Quinn's face. It's not unbelievable that Quinn would figure it all out. She's smart, and she's not affected by Lena's brain-shut-off-syndrome whenever Kara is involved.

"Lena," Alex calls out, and Lena's head snaps to the right where Alex looks tense and itching to follow behind the van that's ready to take Kara away. "We're heading out now. Need to get her back to, you know."

Lena nods, caught between staying, going, and wondering if she's even allowed to go. It must be written all over her face, though, because Quinn says, "Go," at the same time Alex says, "Come on."

Lena would laugh if she weren't so worried, but Quinn assures her she'll be able to get home and she'll check on Frank. Then, quietly, she asks if she can take Rachel to Lena's penthouse, and Lena nods, because she has to face losing Kara so often that she doesn't want to stand in the way if Quinn and Rachel can actually figure things out.

Alex says, "Vazquez will take her statement, and then she'll be able to leave," which eases some of Lena's worries.

Worries that automatically switch to Kara.

Alex drives them, already in contact with the DEO's headquarters to make sure they're ready for Supergirl's arrival. Lena knows she'll have to be attended to immediately, and Alex is barking orders through her communications, her worry over her sister being channeled into asserting her role at the DEO.

The thing is that Lena hasn't really thought about it. What it means to be back at the DEO after so long, and now that she knows the truth about Supergirl's identity. She hasn't thought about it at all, so she stops thinking about it altogether. Just makes sure to follow Alex and ignore all the looks she receives as they move through the facility to the Medical Wing.

All too soon, but not soon enough, Kara is ushered behind a set of double doors, Alex and Lena firmly instructed not to follow. Alex looks a little rabid, but Lena is calm. Her phone is in her hand, waiting for an update on Quinn and Frank.

Alex paces, still frowning. "She always does this," she's muttering. "Couldn't she have just told someone where she was going? And what the hell was all of that, anyway? Those psychos were baiting her, weren't they? Those motherfuckers! And then - "

"Alex."

She stops abruptly.

"Go and find out who did this," Lena instructs, voice just as firm as the medical personnel from earlier. "Find them and make them burn. I'll stay here."

Alex looks conflicted.

"You're just wasting time waiting here when you could be tracking them down," Lena points out. "I'll contact you when something changes."

Alex eyes her for a moment, and then nods. "The second you know," she demands.

"The second I know."


The ride is silent.

After Frank's clean bill of health, someone named Vazquez insists on driving them wherever they need to go. Quinn gets the feeling there are things she won't learn tonight, but she wants to get home and get clean, so she agrees, and then they're on their way.

Vazquez drops off Quinn and Rachel first, suitcase and flowers in tow, and Quinn makes sure to tell Frank to text once he's home. He gives her this look that's not quite surprise but something close.

"Sorry," Quinn tells him, because she can't help feeling just a bit guilty that her request to go to L-Corp has ended up with him injured.

Frank just smiles and says, "You really are so remarkably alike," like it's the easiest thing in the world. "See you tomorrow, Miss Fabray."

And then Quinn is left alone with Rachel, the adrenalin of the entire night finally on its way down. Neither of them says anything as Quinn leads the way into the building and into the elevator.

It's not until they're safely inside the penthouse that Rachel says, "These are for you."

Quinn turns to look at her, in the middle of taking off her shoes. "What?"

Rachel is still standing by the door, looking out of place and supremely awkward. "These," she says, holding out the bouquet of flowers that look incredibly sad by now. "They're for you."

This moment feels important for some reason. Almost as if not taking these flowers is some sign that Quinn doesn't even want to try.

Quinn takes the flowers. "Thank you," she says. "I'm not sure where Lena keeps the vases, but, um - "

Rachel won't quite look at her; definitely won't meet her gaze. "I picked them up at the airport," she explains. "When I landed. I don't really know why. I just saw them and thought - well, I don't know what I was thinking."

"Rachel."

She finally looks up.

"I'm going to put these somewhere," Quinn tells her. "And then I'm going to go and shower, okay?"

Rachel blinks. "Okay."

"There's a guest room you can use if you want," she adds. "I just need to get clean, after all of that, and then we can talk, okay?"

"Okay."

It takes nineteen minutes for Quinn to be clean and settled after all the excitement, thick socks on her feet and glasses on her face. It's the first time in such a long time that she and Rachel have really been in each other's presence and not already touched each other, and Quinn isn't sure what to make of it all.

Quinn finds Rachel in the kitchen, two steaming cups of tea sitting on the island in front of her. She looks very small as she stands there, arms wrapped around her middle and staring into space.

Quinn watches her for a moment, knowing they're going to have to talk about things once Rachel notices her. It's nice just to look at her, the mere sight of her a balm to whatever has been raging within Quinn.

Rachel eventually blinks into the present. She startles a little when she sees Quinn, and then offers a tired smile. "I made tea," she says. "I hope that's okay."

"Perfect," Quinn says, walking into the kitchen and not stopping until she has her arms around Rachel. It's as if her entire body has just been waiting for this moment, her muscles relaxing.

Rachel's arms wrap tightly around her waist, hands gripping the fabric of her sweatshirt. Quinn can feel the shaky breath she releases, warm against her skin.

They remain there, bodies tightly pressed together, until long after their tea has gone cold. Quinn wouldn't say what happened tonight was actually scary, but it was definitely not something she's ever experienced before.

When they do finally pull apart, Rachel keeps her forehead pressed to Quinn's chin. "You smell nice," she murmurs.

Quinn feels herself smile, relaxing even further. "You smell like an airport, and not in a good way."

Rachel gently pinches her side and pulls back enough to look at her. Studies her closely. "Hi," she whispers.

"Hi," Quinn responds, hands dropping to her sides. Then: "Our tea's gone cold."

"We can make more."

Quinn ends up being the one to make their new cups while Rachel takes her own shower. She also slices and dices some fruit, if only to keep herself occupied while she waits. She texts Lena for any kind of update on Supergirl, and makes sure to ask if they managed to locate Kara.

Lena's gentle, everything is going okay on my side, is what Quinn needs to hear, and she replies with her own, Frank's home safe - Rachel and I still need to talk.

They agree to keep each other updated, and then Quinn carries their newly brewed tea into the living room and settles on the couch. She's exhausted, and she yawns to prove it.

She reaches for one of the throw blankets folded over the back of the couch and covers her legs as she lifts them onto the couch and curls into the corner. Rests her head against the slipcover and closes her eyes. Just for a minute.


Lena almost forgot what it was like to watch Supergirl sleep.

Not Supergirl. Kara Danvers.

But even that doesn't quite match the person asleep on a bed under the sunlamps. She looks both too old and too young to be either. Kara Zor-El doesn't quite fit either.

Kara.

Just Kara.

"Any change?"

Lena startles at the voice, her gaze snapping towards the door where Alex has just entered. She looks exhausted, but at least her ire has eased now that Kara is out of the woods. "Not yet," Lena tells her.

"Might be a while before she wakes up," Alex says. "Probably a good idea to head home and get some sleep while she's still out."

Lena accepts the truth of that, but she doesn't think she'll be able to get any sleep, anyway. With Kara incapacitated and Rachel Berry currently in her home, Lena almost wants to remain right here.

Alex seems to understand Lena isn't ready to leave yet. "You know, I've never quite got used to how this part feels," she says, voice low. "It's happened so many times, you'd think I would have learned how to cope already, but it never gets easier." She walks further into the room, her hand coming to rest on Kara's foot beneath the blanket. "The last time was in early November," she says. "That time was - it was bad."

Lena's heart clenches in her chest, because she didn't even know. She wouldn't have even known.

"The takedown was - it was that sickening crunch that sticks with you," Alex says. "I haven't been able to get the sound out of my head. But she woke up, because she's Kara and that's what she does, but something was odd from the moment her eyes opened." She meets Lena's gaze. "She lost her memory."

Lena's eyes widen.

"Just a few years," Alex explains. "Couldn't remember much after she first announced herself as Supergirl. It was so jarring interacting with a Kara who didn't know anything about what's happened in the past few years, and I kept waiting for her memory to come back, because I really wasn't prepared to come out to her a second time." She lets out an amused breath. "But then one week became two, and nothing was changing. It's when J'onn and I really had to consider that her memory would just never come back."

Lena can't even make sense of what Alex is trying to tell her. Something happened to Kara. Something probably horrific, and Lena didn't even know it. Something worse could have happened, and Lena wouldn't have known.

She didn't even feel it.

"J'onn and I started telling her all these things about her life: about Cat and her new job, and about what happened with James and that not every member of her family was lost along with Krypton. In retrospect, those were easy things to tell her, because I didn't know how to tell her about you. I couldn't - I didn't know how to explain to her what you were to each other; how to help her understand that, and maybe that was selfish of me.

"As her sister, the last thing I wanted was to see her in pain, and she was hurting, Lena. Endlessly and non-stop, she was miserable and aching without you, and then she lost her memory and she wasn't anymore. Because, for a few short weeks, she didn't even know she lost you, and I just didn't have the heart to be another person to break her heart when she managed to do it so effectively herself."

Lena tilts her head back, her eyes closing. There could have been a world where Kara wouldn't even know her. That's too much to imagine, because it would be a wild, terrible thing to be looked at by Kara Danvers and not be known.

"I knew you made it your mission to avoid us, which you were entitled to do, but I - I knew I would have to tell you eventually," Alex says. "Just in case you saw her out and about, she wouldn't have recognised you, and that's a decision I made knowing you would hate me, but my sister has suffered enough loss, and I wasn't going to add more to it."

Lena wonders about a moment like that. Of being out in the world with a Kara who is a stranger. What would she be like? Would her eyes be curious? Would she be lighter than she is now, unburdened by the lives they've been living? Lena can only wonder about the Kara she was before she started working as a reporter and established herself as someone Lena was powerless not to know.

If anything, it wouldn't have been fair. It wouldn't have been fair that, between the two of them, Kara would have been the one to forget. But then, Lena actually wouldn't have wanted to forget, either.

Kara is someone worth remembering.

Alex clears her throat. "When her memory came back, it was as if she lost her entire world all over again," she says. "I know this isn't news to you, Lena, but you are such a big part of her world. In whatever capacity that is, I hope you're here to stay."

Lena breathes out and finally looks at Alex. "I knew before she told me."

Alex blinks. "What?"

"Lex told me she was Supergirl," she continues. "Before I shot him."

"What?"

"It was - do you know what that was like?" she says, quiet and mostly to herself. "To have every fear I've had about putting my trust in someone confirmed? To know everything was a lie? And to feel so foolish for believing someone like me deserved otherwise?"

"You knew?" Alex sounds horrified, which gets worse when Lena explains that Kara isn't actually the one who killed Lex in the end; Lena is.

"After that, I just waited, counting down the days, wondering if I, a Luthor, would ever be deemed worthy of the secret."

"Lena, no."

"And then she told me," Lena says, recalling the night. "It was such a good confession, too. Emotional and heavy and full of apologies and explanations that meant nothing to me at the time."

"Does she know you knew?"

Lena ignores her. "It sounds silly, but I think I actually had to work through the stages of grief," she says. "It started before she confessed, needing to confirm it for myself, my anger brewing until it exploded, and then just - I needed time. To make sense of it. To work through what it all meant without having Kara constantly trying to make it better. I needed the time to get to the point where I was willing to try, as well. And now I am."

And she has been able to make sense of it. Maybe. She can place the blame where it's needed; can figure out from exactly where the bulk of her hurt stems. It wasn't even really the lie.

What actually struck her the most is that she was close to both of Kara's identities, caught in the middle of both their ideologies, told one thing by one and seen suspiciously by the other.

"Why are you telling me this?" Alex asks.

Lena looks at her, seeing Alexandra Danvers for exactly whom she is. Loving, daring and caring Alex Danvers, who's one true fault is protecting her sister and her happiness and safety to the general detriment of others. "Because I wouldn't have hated you," Lena says. "For not telling her about me in a situation like that. I wouldn't have hated you for doing that, Alex, because I would have done the same thing."

And she would have. If there was a world when Quinn forgot ever meeting Rachel, Lena would never have told her about the brunette. Not recently; not with the way Quinn has ached for her in recent months. If she could have saved Quinn from that pain, she would do it in a heartbeat.

"You would have?" Alex asks, surprised and curious, as if she really wants her decision affirmed. As if Kara didn't agree once her memory returned.

"Yes," she confirms.

"If it were Quinn, I would have done the same."

Alex frowns, and Lena realises that she hasn't actually explained who Quinn is to her. "What does this have to do with Quinn?"

Lena tells her.


Rachel is humming.

That's the first thing Quinn hears as she slowly wakes. For a moment, she's convinced she's still dreaming, but then the reality of the night she's just had sets in, and Quinn sits up abruptly.

Rachel screams in surprise, her tea nearly spilling out of the cup in her hand. "Quinn, oh my God," she breathes, free hand pressed over her heart. "Don't do that."

"You're here," Quinn says.

Rachel frowns at her. "I wasn't just going to leave," she says.

"I fell asleep," she says, moving a hand to scrub her face and realising her glasses are sitting neatly folded on the table where Rachel must have placed them.

"You did," Rachel confirms. "You looked like you needed it."

Quinn nods. "How long?"

"Almost an hour."

Quinn shifts, turning to stretch her body and set her feet on the ground. "Lena's not back yet?"

"Nope."

"I fell asleep."

"You did."

"Sorry."

Rachel smiles. "I made another cup, but I'm afraid your tea has gone cold again."

Quinn groans. "Stupid tea." She untangles herself from the blanket and gets to her feet, stretching again and not missing the way Rachel's eyes take her in. "Did you see the fruit?"

"I saw the fruit."

Quinn sits again, brow creased. "I don't know what I'm doing."

Rachel turns her body to face her. "If it makes you feel any better, I don't know what I'm doing, either."

"No, it doesn't."

Rachel just smiles again. "Sorry."

Quinn looks at her properly. "You're here."

"I'm here."

"You came all the way to National City."

"I did."

Quinn audibly swallows. "You love me."

"I do."

"I don't know what that means."

Rachel's expressions shifts, falling for a moment before it becomes determined. Quinn is convinced she's still half-asleep, because Rachel is here in National City right now and she's telling her she loves her. It's the stuff dreams are made of.

Or nightmares, depending on whom you ask.

Rachel rests her hands in her lap. "Do you remember the first time I kissed you?" she starts, which is definitely not what Quinn expects her to say. "In March. When you came to New York."

"Of course, I remember."

"Right." She breathes out. "My whole life, I had this plan," she says. "The one everyone knew about, sure, Broadway and winning a Tony and getting married to my leading man and losing my virginity at twenty-five and when I wanted to have kids. It was all so planned out, but things started to unravel pretty early on, and so I figured out this new plan, and I was determined - just so determined - to stick to it."

Quinn's breath stills, suddenly just knowing what Rachel is going to say next.

"You were never part of the plan."

Quinn holds her gaze. "And now?"

"I am so sick of plans," she says. "I don't want plans. I don't want to keep putting so much of myself into trying to stick to them. I don't want to have some great trajectory of my life all laid out, Quinn. I just - I want a life I can live with you."

Quinn opens her mouth to say something - anything - but Rachel suddenly gets to her feet.

"Wait," she says. "Before you say anything, I have something for you." And then she's rushing out of the room and returning a minute later with a green plastic container. "These are also for you." She retakes her seat. "Carole sent them."

Quinn's heart skips a beat as she takes the container from Rachel and opens it to reveal almost a dozen oat cookies.

"I was in Lima," Rachel explains. "I saw her. We, uh, talked. Apparently, oat cookies are some of your favourites."

"I'll have one when I finally have my tea," she says, making a mental note to call Carole and thank her - all while basically confirming the person she's been heartbroken over is, in fact, Rachel Berry.

Well.

Rachel's already revealed that much.

Quinn licks her lips. "I still don't know what you're trying to tell me." She needs to hear the words. Out loud, explicit and clear.

"I don't have any plans," Rachel says, "but, if I did, you would be in every single one of them." Then she reaches for Quinn's hands and shifts closer. "I love you. I want to be with you. If you'll have me, of course. I know I've messed up a lot, and I know I've hurt you and we still have so much to talk about, but I'm ready now. I don't care about anything else other than trying to make this work."

Quinn tries to take her hands back, suddenly overwhelmed, but Rachel holds on. Gets closer, slides off the couch and actually kneels in front of Quinn.

"Wait," Rachel says. "Just one more thing I need you to know."

"What on earth could top that?"

Rachel looks so earnest, eyes imploring Quinn to keep listening. "The moment we kissed, I knew there wasn't another person for me. I've spent so long fighting it, even before that moment, and I'm just so tired, Quinn. It is exhausting trying to stay away from you. Not when you feel like home."

"Rachel, I don't know what to - "

"Oh, my God."

Both their heads snap up at the new voice, Lena standing in the penthouse's open doorway and staring at them with wide eyes.

"Please tell me this is not what it looks like," Lena says, her voice forcibly calm.

Quinn frowns, eyes on Lena, and then on Rachel, who is kneeling on the floor in front of her and holding onto her hands. All while confessing her love.

The second their position hits, Quinn jumps to her feet and puts distance between them. "What? No." Her voice is way too high, obviously guilty of something. "You're home."

Lena slowly closes the door. "So I didn't interrupt a proposal?"

Oh, God.

Quinn laughs, high and nervous. What a night. Holy shit. She can't handle any more of this. "No," she says again. "No proposals here. No, Ma'am, we're not doing that. Totally learned our lesson the first time. Nope. None of that happening here."

Lena stares at her as if she's lost her mind, and Rachel's expression isn't any better.

"You know what," Quinn says, stepping back. "It's so late. I think I'm going to go to bed. Yeah. I'm glad you're home, but I'm - Goodnight." She knows she must appear rattled, even a little manic, but this has been an overwhelming day, and she just can't -

Quinn leaves the room without another word.


Lena watches her go, perplexed by the entire scene that's just played out. She turns to Rachel, who appears just as confused. Concerned, too, and maybe a little resigned.

Lena sets her bag on the floor and removes her heels. "Do I even want to know what that was all about?" she asks Rachel, who is just now moving to sit on the couch.

Rachel sighs. "We have a complicated history with proposals and weddings," she says, which doesn't explain anything.

Lena steps further into the living room, wanting nothing more than to make a sharp right and disappear into her bedroom and sleep. "Who almost got married then?" she asks, expecting to hear something about someone's parent.

She just doesn't expect to hear Rachel say, "Me."

Lena drops into an armchair, exhausted by the day as a whole. All she wanted was to enjoy a night of karaoke with her favourite people, and now Kara is unconscious and Quinn is -

Well, Lena doesn't know what's wrong with her.

"She's the main reason I didn't go through with it in the end," Rachel says, and Lena frowns. Did Quinn tell her about her feelings back then? "She got into her car accident on the way to the wedding I'm certain she never really supported."

Oh.

Wow.

Lena closes her eyes, a headache blooming behind her eyes. "I don't even know what to say right now."

Rachel remains silent, allowing Lena a moment of peace. When she does, Rachel is sitting quietly, fingers fidgeting in her lap and her bottom lip between her teeth. It's one of those times when Lena is reminded that they're both just so young.

"Should I leave?" Rachel asks. "I'm pretty sure you're not my biggest fan."

"No, I'm not," Lena says. "But I'm not the one you have to convince."

"I don't believe that," Rachel tells her. "It's one thing to fix things with Quinn, but you're obviously very important to her, which means your opinion matters."

"I don't even know you," Lena says, but she gets the feeling that's about to change.

Rachel straightens, smiling. "Ask me anything."

Lena takes her seriously. "Are you done fucking around with my sister?"

Rachel's eyes widen. Wait. Her what? "Your what?"

Lena sighs and leans forward, elbows on her thighs. "Listen to me, Rachel," she says. "You know, and I know that Quinn has already forgiven you. She did so before you even showed up here, and that is the part that's going to have her hiding from this, and from you."

"What do you suggest I do, then?"

"I'm sure you know her better than I do," Lena says, which is the sad reality of finding her family so late in life.

"I've hurt her so much."

"I know," Lena says, and she can't help thinking about the parallels between her situation with Kara, and Quinn's with Rachel. "But you're here now, and you're trying, and I think you should just keep showing up unless she tells you otherwise. Something tells me you can be persistent."

"That's kind of how I got her to be my friend in the first place," Rachel admits, this faraway smile on her face. "Wouldn't leave her alone. I was just so determined to be in her orbit, and I guess now I know why."

"I'm hopeful things will work out," Lena tells her, "but I won't push her towards anything." She shakes her head. "I think we both know enough of her life has been dictated for her, and I won't be another person to do that."

"I won't ask you to."

"Good."

Rachel can't hold back her yawn, which Lena takes as a sign to send them both to bed. They can talk more when the sun is shining. Quinn promised her waffles. How does one even make vegan waffles?

Lena bids Rachel goodnight after getting herself a glass of water and switching off the lights. She can't wait to get into her pyjamas. Maybe she should catch a quick shower, and then she can have a lazy Saturday morning in her gown and bed slippers before going to see Kara.

What Lena doesn't expect when she enters her bedroom is for Quinn to be asleep in her bed, curled so tightly that Lena has the potent desire to wrap arms around her and protect her from the world.

She showers first, trying to be as quiet as possible, and then crawls into bed. It takes her a moment to settle, and it's also the moment Quinn says, "I don't know what to do."

Lena rolls onto her side to look at her, eyes adjusted to the dark room. "Sure you do," she responds, just able to see the conflict on Quinn's face.

"I do," Quinn agrees in a whisper. Then: "You've forgiven Kara?"

"I have."

"Have you told her?"

"I think we're still building up to that conversation," Lena admits, thinking of a Kara who temporarily forgot she even existed. In another life, there wouldn't have even been a need for such a conversation.

"How can you stand it?" Quinn asks, voice searching. "How can you stand to be around her and not - don't you just want to love her with everything you have and everything you are?"

Lena doesn't know how to respond to that, even though they both know the answer.

"Doesn't it make you burn?" Quinn questions. "Even being here, in this room and not near her, it aches. Everything just aches. How do you do it?"

Still, Lena can't bring herself to reply.

"I am terrified," Quinn whispers.

"You're allowed to be," Lena assures her. "Every feeling you have is justified."

"I just want this part to be over," Quinn says. "I want all this confusion and questioning to be over, so we can just get to the good part."

"Is it even worth it if you don't put in the work to get it?" Lena points out, though she can't imagine what gives her the experience to say such a thing.

"I don't want some tragic, tortured love affair, Lena."

"Then what do you want?"

"Her," Quinn says. "I just want her."

"Well, then, of course you know what to do."

Quinn falls silent, and neither of them speaks for long enough that Lena almost slips into slumber. But then Quinn is asking, "How's Kara?"

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, how is Supergirl?" She hums into a pillow. Then: "Did you manage to find Kara?"

Lena would laugh at Quinn's 'mixup' if she weren't actually concerned that Quinn knows Kara's second identity. "She's fine," she answers. "They're both fine."

"Good," Quinn murmurs, halfway asleep now. "Goodnight, Lena."

"Goodnight, Quinn."

"I love you," she adds a moment later, her words slightly slurred, and it is the first time she has ever said them to Lena.

Quinn is already asleep before Lena can get her brain to recall the appropriate response to words she hasn't heard in -

She can't even remember how long it's been.

Even though Quinn won't hear them, Lena says them anyway.


Quinn isn't even a little bit surprised to find Rachel already awake by the time she leaves Lena sleeping in her bed. She's still a bit groggy herself, but she knows she won't be able to get back to sleep now that she's awake.

She stops by her bedroom to run a comb through her hair and brush her teeth in an attempt to look decent. She gently slaps her cheeks to wake further, and then goes to the common area. She finds Rachel in the living room, seated on the couch where Quinn left her, but she's obviously dressed for the day already.

Rachel looks more uncertain this morning than she did last night, and Quinn doesn't want that. So she smiles as reassuringly as she can and holds out a hand.

Rachel hesitates for a moment, unsure what to do. But she takes it eventually, and giggles when Quinn lifts her up onto her feet and straight into a hug.

It lasts nearly as long as the one they shared the previous night, and Quinn already knows it's going to hurt like hell when they return to their lives on the East Coast.

The hug ends eventually, and then Quinn says, "I promised Lena I'd make her waffles."

Rachel nods. "I'm happy with fruit."

Quinn just rolls her eyes, because that just won't do.

In the end, she has to look up a recipe for vegan waffles, relieved to find she's already stocked up on what alternatives they need: coconut milk, coconut oil and maple syrup. Because, really, Quinn is the one who does the grocery shopping here.

Rachel sits at the island and watches her work, eyes never straying too far from her. She doesn't really speak beyond asking questions of whatever steps Quinn is taking, which is fine. Quinn gets the feeling the ball is in her court right now, anyway.

Which is why it's a surprise to her when Rachel very carefully asks, "What are you doing today?"

Quinn carefully peels the latest waffle from the iron and sets it on the growing pile on the counter. She turns to look at Rachel before pouring in more batter. "Today?"

"Yes."

"Um. We didn't really have any plans." She reaches for the non-stick spray. "After last night, I'm not sure Lena will want to do much more than check in with, you know." Supergirl.

And Kara.

"Does that mean I could borrow you for a few hours?"

Quinn pours batter into the waffle iron, locks it in place and gets it cooking, before she looks at Rachel once more. "And what would we be doing for those few hours?"

"Anything you want," Rachel says, easy. "But, if there's nothing specific you want to do, I do have some ideas. I've never actually been to National City before, so I was looking up things to do, and did you know they have this Pretzel company place where you can learn how to make them, and buy them? Or perhaps a bike ride along the coast? Or the National Wildlife Refuge? That actually sounds rather lovely, but it's up to you. There are parks and beaches and a public library I know you'll love."

Quinn blinks. "Rach?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you asking me out?" she asks.

"Oh." Rachel nods, ever serious. "Was I not clear? My apologies. Yes. I'm asking you out. On a date. With me. Today. If you want, of course. Please. We can - "

"Rachel."

"Hmm?"

"I don't think I've ever seen you eat a pretzel."

"What?"

Quinn shakes her head, amused, and then checks the latest waffle. Six should be enough, but she has enough batter for at least double that, so she just keeps going.

"Yes."

Rachel hasn't even looked away from her. "Yes?"

"You can borrow me for a few hours," she says. "I like pretzels, and I like libraries, and I really like wildlife."

Rachel stares at her, eyes giving away her disbelief. "It's a date," she says. "I do want to make that clear."

"I heard you."

"Oh." She puffs out a breath. "Okay." She nods. "We're doing this?"

"Let's just get through today," Quinn says, tone serious and watches the uncertainty return to Rachel's eyes. "We're in National City," she says. "We get to be whomever we want, away from everyone we know, so of course you would make it clear to me what this is to you. But we go home tomorrow, and then what? What happens when you're in New York and I'm in New Haven, and life resumes? What happens then?"

Rachel takes the time and considers her words seriously. "The logistics of all of this are complicated, I agree," she says. "I live in New York, and you're in New Haven, but it is only a two-hour train ride and I know it sounds like a lot, but it's really not that bad."

"I've made the trip, I know."

Rachel audibly swallows, and Quinn feels unmoored. She doesn't know how they make this work. The distance isn't even the problem. Quinn would want to be with her, even if they were on separate coasts. She just wants to know if what they become will be real.

"You want to date me," Quinn says. "Me? Quinn Fabray, who is constantly going through some kind of crisis, me? Be my girlfriend? Have a proper, full-blown, people-will-know relationship with me?"

There isn't even a beat of hesitation before Rachel says, "Yes, more than anything."

"You still live with Kurt and Santana," Quinn points out, because this is a reason they couldn't work. Big and bold and present. She knows they won't accept this relationship, which doesn't really bother Quinn. She's not looking to get back into their good graces. Frankly, she doesn't want to be anywhere near them. Which presents a problem for Rachel, and Quinn doesn't want that for her.

"I do," Rachel confirms, a slight crease in her brow.

"Are you going to be able to handle what this'll mean for you?" Quinn asks. "Or is it your intention to continue keeping this all a secret?" Keeping her a secret.

Rachel slides off the stool she's perched on and crosses the space between them. She comes to a stop right in front of Quinn, and Quinn can see the way her brow eases. "No," she says. "No more secrets. I want you, and I want everyone to know."

Quinn studies her face for any signs her words aren't the absolute truth, but there's nothing. Her voice is firm, and Quinn could try to convince herself not to believe her, but she's just as exhausted by all of this as Rachel is.

"I know we still have a lot of things to work out, but is that something you could possibly want as well?" Rachel asks.

"What?"

"Me."

Quinn stares at her, and then laughs. "You're an idiot."

"I'm aware."

"You hurt me."

"I know."

"You hurt yourself, too."

"I know."

"You're not allowed to do either of things again, okay?"

Rachel nods her head yes. "No more hurting you, got it."

"No more hurting you."

Another nod. "Got it."

Quinn's gaze meets hers as she says, "We can do this."

And then it happens, blinding in all the best ways. Rachel beams at her, eyes bright and light and so beautiful, and Quinn can't remember the last time she saw her smile that way. She looks young and pretty and unburdened, and Quinn would definitely kiss her if the first hint of an acrid smell doesn't reach her nose.

The waffle!

Quinn spins around and retrieves it just in time. It's definitely on the crispier side, and she almost burns herself trying to get it out, but it's still edible. As soon as she's set it on the pile, her fingers still stinging, she hears Rachel giggle. It's one of those sounds she hasn't heard in such a long time that her heart jolts in her chest.

"What?" Rachel says when all Quinn does it stare at her. "Did you actually hurt yourself?"

After her display last night and the way she's acting right now, it's a wonder Rachel hasn't assumed she's just lost it. But it's been an overwhelming few hours, and it's taking a while for her entire body to catch up to the fact that Rachel Berry is currently standing here with her in Lena's penthouse in National City.

What even.

"You love me," Quinn says as she pours in more batter for another waffle.

"I do," Rachel murmurs. "It is the most terrifying thing in the world."

Quinn, at least, understands that feeling. "It is, yeah."

"I'm done hiding from it, though," Rachel says. "I just - I want to be happy, Quinn, and I am the closest to that elusive feeling when I'm with you. Maybe that's selfish, I don't know, but I also don't know how selfish it could be when all I want is to make you happy, as well."

Quinn shakes her head. "Maybe we're both just selfish enough," she offers. "And selfless. Who cares? I certainly don't."

Rachel's gaze doesn't stray from her own. "You accept me, either way," she says, stating the obvious, the way Quinn has been doing all morning. "You've always just accepted me. Never wanted to change me. Just did what you could to make sure I never changed myself."

It was exhausting work.

"Thank you for that," Rachel tells her, and Quinn steps close to her, drawn in by how heavy and light their conversation is.

Quinn gets the feeling they've always been talking about forever. Call her silly, but Quinn has always been of the belief that, if they ever did do this, it would last for a lifetime. There is nobody else. Not for Quinn, and now not for Rachel.

It's why Quinn asks, "Would we be doing this if Finn were still alive?" The question feels like a slap to them both, and Rachel actually flinches as if the words have landed like a physical blow. But Quinn needs to know. Is she just some consolation prize? Someone to settle for?

The logical part of her brain knows she's neither of those things, because Rachel is fighting to be here, but Quinn has spent a lot of time watching Rachel be with other people, and it's -

"I don't know," Rachel finally says, voice small. "I wanted you, before," she explains. "You know that. But I promised him - you have to - it was - I just, I knew that if we - "

Quinn's eyes widen watching Rachel talk in and around herself as she tries to explain. "Hey," she says, hand reaching out to cup her cheek and stop her ramble. "Breathe."

"I'm sorry," Rachel whispers, her own hand resting over Quinn's.

"It's okay."

"I love you," she says again. "I have loved you for longer than even I know, and realising that wasn't anything I was prepared for. I couldn't hurt him. I didn't know how, so I've just been hurting myself, instead, which means I've been hurting you too, and I'm so sorry."

Quinn told herself she wouldn't. She told herself she would wait and see and figure out just how willing she is to jump back into this. She told herself she wouldn't kiss Rachel until they talked about everything first.

Quinn kisses her.

Rachel lets out a tiny sound of surprise, but she eases into the kiss easily, body pressing close and fingers curling around Quinn's. It feels like coming home, her body settling and relaxing and just -

A throat clears, and Quinn jerks back to see Lena standing just inside the kitchen, an eyebrow raised. Quinn feels heat on her neck, a flush blooming on her cheeks. It helps and also doesn't that Rachel isn't faring any better.

"Um." Quinn is supposed to be a well-spoken, articulate young woman, but she's just been caught kissing her maybe-girlfriend by her fresh, new sister, and her brain just won't work.

Lena just shakes her head, eyes amused. "You're burning the waffles, dear."

Chapter Text

x. we dream in colour (the world is black and white)

When Lena was younger, she used to take great pleasure in teasing Lex about all the girls - and, sometimes, even older woman - who would fawn over him. He was Lionel Luthor's only son, primed to take over the billion dollar family legacy, and they all wanted a piece of him.

Lena didn't realise why he always treated their affections as a game, toying with them and enjoying their heartbreak when he lost interest. It was strange, but she didn't think anything of it. Lena thinks he knew none of them wanted him for him, and so he wouldn't allow himself to be genuine, either.

If ever Lena saw her brother in love, she can't know if it was real or not. Maybe he wasn't capable of it, in a sense. He certainly never loved her.

But, now, here she is, sitting with her younger sister, and it is so alarmingly and beautifully evident that Quinn is stupid in love. It's written all over her face, fully on display, and Lena realises she can forgive Rachel for being afraid of something as potent as that.

Lena is holding on just enough already, because she knows Kara is capable of looking the same way. If given the permission, Kara would release it, and Lena's prepared to be devastated by it.

They're awkward and young and they keep sneaking looks at each other, and Lena can't remember a time in her life she felt comfortable enough to feel anything like that. Every past romance was heavily scrutinised, judged on whether the person helped or hurt the Luthor image.

"These are actually vegan?" Lena asks, getting Quinn's attention across the dining table. She's pouring more maple syrup over her waffles, the liquid filling all the little squares until they're overflowing.

"Can't even tell, can you?" Quinn muses. "Put enough maple syrup and anything'll taste nice."

Rachel pinches her arm. "If I remember correctly, you, like everyone, had zero complaints about my vegan cookies."

Quinn rolls her eyes, and then looks at Lena. "Can you taste coconut?"

"A little," she admits. "But it's not unpleasant."

"You like them."

Lena shrugs. "They're all right."

Quinn grins, easy and light, and it's so lovely. Lena can hardly keep looking at her, but looking at Rachel isn't any better. It all just makes Lena ache for Kara in a way she's just been able to ignore. It's more difficult, now that Quinn has brought attention to it.

How can she stand it, indeed?

"Any news on, um, Supergirl?" Quinn asks, very purposefully putting a piece of waffle in her mouth.

"She's fine," Lena says, giving her a critical look. "Awake and nagging to go home. I'll visit her later."

Quinn nods. "You should take her some waffles," she says. "I'll dress them with syrup and some fruit."

"Maybe not so much fruit," Lena says before she can stop herself, and Quinn's smile can be described as only delighted. "I just mean - "

"Powdered sugar," Quinn offers. "Nutella is always a winner in my books."

"Sure."

Quinn keeps looking at Lena as she eats, and she really is an annoying little sister, isn't she? "Is that the plan for the day?" she asks.

"As far as I'm aware."

Quinn tilts her head slightly to the left. "Dinner tonight," she says, with a nod that makes it concrete.

"Wherever you want," Lena easily agrees.

"Rachel and I are going to go out for a couple of hours, so you don't have to worry about us while you do whatever it is you need to do." There's something very particular in Quinn's voice, as if she's trying to tell Lena something without actually saying the words.

"And what is it that I need to do?" Lena asks, almost daring Quinn to say what she means.

Quinn doesn't, but she does ask, "Have you heard from Kara?" which is almost worse. Goodness, she's annoying.

"I have," Lena confirms. "Turns out she didn't get too close to the action."

Quinn snorts, and then looks at Rachel. "Kara's a journalist," she explains. "She actually broke the story of the adoption scandal, but she's also Lena's, uh - she's Lena's Kara."

It's really the best way to describe her, and Lena appreciates Quinn labelling her that way. "She was chasing down a lead last night," Lena continues the explanation for Rachel. "We lost hold of her in all the excitement, but she's okay."

"Maybe you should take waffles for her, instead," Quinn says, smiling, and Lena is endlessly confused if she actually knows about Kara's identity or not.

"Maybe," she accepts, but Quinn ends up packing only one container of their remaining waffles for Lena to take to whomever she chooses. To Kara.

Rachel insists on doing the dishes, and Quinn follows Lena to her office, settling on her couch as Lena takes a seat behind her desk and says, "We're going on a date."

Lena powers on her computer, needing to respond to some emails. "I gathered as much."

"It already feels different," Quinn admits, "but I'm afraid of what it will be like once we're back at school."

"That's something you two will have to talk about," Lena says. "You both have to acknowledge that what you're starting now won't and can't ever be the way it was before. That relationship is gone, shifted and transformed into the one you're re-establishing now. You need to get rid of those same assumptions and expectations, because you're different people now and you've learned more about yourselves and each other."

Quinn just blinks at her. "Are you sure we're talking about me and Rachel?"

"Of course," Lena answers, voice a little high. "Who else would we be talking about?"

Quinn does her the courtesy of not rolling her eyes, but she does say, "Open your eyes and take your own advice." She gently slaps her thighs as she gets to her feet. "You're not getting any younger, Luthor."

"I haven't even reached my quarter-life, thank you very much."

"And, yet, you're already in crisis," Quinn comments, and Lena is left to wonder just when she turned into such an annoying little shit. Is it just a thing younger sisters develop by virtue of the fact they merely exist?

Probably.

She's sure she was annoying to Lex, as well.

"You think you're funny," Lena says in response.

Quinn starts for the door. "While you stew on that, I'm going to go kiss a pretty girl," she says. "I'll let you know when we're leaving."

"Don't defile my home," Lena calls after her, but Quinn has already disappeared. She sighs into the empty room, already exhausted. She suddenly feels very old as she sits here, envious of both Quinn and Rachel's ability to exist with each other.

She reaches for her phone and exchanges a few texts with Alex, bouncing ideas off her and finding out how Kara's doing. Alex hasn't really said more about what Quinn might have learned by being first on the scene, but she's perhaps taking it for granted that Quinn also has blinders on.

She doesn't.

Not when it comes to this, at least.

Lena doesn't bring it up, either, just letting her know that she'll drop by the DEO to see Kara and possibly discuss her own involvement in tracking down the people responsible for co-ordinating last night's attack. The DEO managed to capture the perpetrators, sure, but they're just henchman, and Alex is hunting for the masterminds behind it all.

Lena spends the next half an hour replying to emails and making plans for the rest of the week, only looking away when Quinn pops in to see her.

"We're heading out," Quinn tells her, standing in the doorway of the office. "Do you want me to bring you back some lunch?"

Lena shakes her head. "I'm going to check in with Supergirl, so I'll pick up something," she says. "You two go and enjoy yourselves. I'll sort myself out."

"You're sure?"

"Don't worry about me."

Quinn gives her a searching look, studying her face, because Lena already knows Quinn will always worry. "Don't work too hard, okay?"

"Sure thing, Quinn."

Quinn rolls her eyes, but leaves Lena be. She waves once, and Lena watches her walk away, towards where Rachel is waiting for her. For their date. A real, romantic, they're-doing-this kind of date.

They make it look easy.

Maybe it really is easy and Lena just makes it more complicated than it really has to be. Is she even allowed to have anything easy?

Is she allowed to have Kara?


Quinn has just finished sending Lena several pictures of her and Rachel making pretzels, as well as a snap of their current view of the water when the question blurts out of her.

She doesn't know why she wants to know, but she does. They've had such a good day so far, but Quinn isn't kidding herself that it could be this easy.

She's deeply aware of Rachel's hand held in her own. It fits perfectly, warm and solid, and Quinn should be soaking up every second of it. But she can't. She just wants to know.

"Does anyone else know you're here?" Quinn asks, "Besides Carole, I mean."

Rachel's eyes track a boat on the water, the breeze cool against their skin. "To be fair, she doesn't actually know I'm in National City; just that I'm with you," she says. "But, um, only my fathers know."

Quinn accepts that for what it is. "And what do they think about all of this?"

Rachel brings them to a stop, moving out of the way of the actual promenade and getting close to the railing. The water is blue and beautiful before them, and Rachel tugs her closer, until Quinn has to lean against her. "What do they think," she murmurs, slight crease in her brow. "They know that I have been miserable for months, wracked with guilt and struggling to make sense of my feelings and what they mean for me in the context of my previous relationship, friends and family."

Quinn can't quite look at her, so she turns her body and presses Rachel's back against the railing, their fronts together. Presses in close and drops her forehead onto Rachel's shoulder, feeling small hands slide over her back.

"Do you know how I feel right now?" Rachel whispers, voice quiet in Quinn's ear. "I feel like I can see in colour, Quinn. For the first time, there isn't darkness at my edges, closing in. I don't feel like the world is heavy and demanding anymore. I feel light and good, and I don't know if that's to do with me, or with you, but something has happened - something significant - and they would want nothing else for me."

"That's not really telling me anything," Quinn tells her.

"Quinn?"

She lifts her head. "What?"

Rachel's right hand threads through her hair, gentle and purposeless. "They're happy for me," she says. "Proud and relieved. A little worried, obviously, because nothing between us has ever really been easy, but I'm in love with you, and they are just two people we won't have to fight against to get any kind of acceptance."

"Are you worried?"

"A little."

"Why?"

Rachel presses her lips together, thinking of the right words. "Do you want this?" she asks. "Do you actually want this?"

"What?"

"I know it shouldn't matter," Rachel says. "Or, I mean, it should, but I - you haven't said - not that you have to, of course - and I don't - I don't want to go through this unsure if you - " she stops. "I don't know what I'm saying."

"You're an idiot."

"You've said that before," Rachel mumbles. "Say something else."

Quinn nuzzles her cheek, tip of her nose against warm skin. "I'm hungry."

That startles a laugh out of her, and her fingers drop to Quinn's neck. "We can find a restaurant," she offers.

"I'm also in love with you," Quinn says. "I have been for a lot longer than either of us even realised, and I have had to deal with how it feels to watch you be with other people and how it feels not to be a priority of yours for years." She takes a breath. "After last year's Spring Break, I told myself to move on. I gave up on all of this, because if I couldn't even manage to keep you as a friend, then there was no chance I could ever have you the way I desperately wanted.

"I spent my time focusing on school," Quinn says. "Focusing on my friends, and my family. I ended up going on a trip to Europe with Amy, her boyfriend and her sister, and I realised that it wasn't a fluke that I've been attracted to you for so long. It wasn't any surprise, not really, but I was able to explore those parts of myself well enough to know that you will always be important and special to me in a way I have never been able to ignore.

"I didn't think I would ever see you again. Coming back to the States, spending time in Sacramento and then returning to school, it never crossed my mind that we would ever even talk again. Less so after everything that happened with Operation Ellis and missing the funeral, but then you showed up at my door, and it would have been everything I ever wanted except for the fact you came to see me for yourself, and not for me."

Rachel's jaw clenches, guilt clouding her eyes.

Quinn keeps speaking. "Instead, we fucked." It's crude, the description, but it's the truth. "That's what we did. You told me I was something you needed to get out of your system." That hurt. She recognised the feeling at the time, but it was something deeply conflicting having someone so obviously want you but act like you mean nothing to them. She realises now that Rachel was caught in her own spiral, but Quinn let it happen, just so desperate for her, and it ended in disaster.

Quinn clears her throat. That part is over. They're done with that. "We didn't talk about it," she says, "and I should have pushed harder, but I also - I just didn't want you to disappear again, because then I did ask for more, and you did disappear, and I've been - it has been harder than anything else I've had to deal with, and I'm the kid that got kicked out at fifteen." She meets Rachel's gaze. "But you're here now, and I don't - there's something I need you to say or do that will assure me you're here to stay, regardless of what happens, but I don't know what that is."

Rachel looks almost as stumped as Quinn feels. They both want this, obviously, but they can't quite reassure the other, and Quinn doesn't know how they get through this without being able to do that for the other.

Rachel takes a breath, lifts onto her toes to kiss Quinn's cheek and says, "Why don't we get some lunch and we can try to figure it out?"

What she's really saying is: she's staying, and she's trying.


Kara is awake when Lena arrives at the DEO, a container of leftover waffles in her possession. She's not going to tell Kara they're vegan, just to see how she reacts to them while believing they're made normally.

The smile Lena receives from her is blinding, and Lena has to focus a lot of brain power on maintaining her walk towards Kara. She's not sure how she'll explain randomly tripping over nothing.

"Hmm, something smells nice," is the first thing Kara says. She makes grabby actions with her hands. "Is that for me?"

Lena hands her the container once she's near enough. "Well, hello to you, too," she says.

Kara gives her an innocent smile, a slight flush to her cheeks. "Hi."

Lena steps closer to the edge of her bed, eyes studying her closely. It's remarkable the way Kara can go from the cusp of death to demanding food in such a short time, and Lena's not sure she'll ever get used to it. "You look better."

Kara gets the container of waffles open and takes a deep sniff. Quinn mixed in some cinnamon to the batter, and it's a delightful contrast to the surgical smell of the room. "I feel better," she says. "Even better now."

"They're just waffles, Kara."

"You're here."

"Oh."

Kara grins. "You don't happen to have a fork, do you? Will I still be cute if I just use my hands?"

"Who told you that you were cute?" Lena asks, searching the room for anything to use as a utensil. Is it sacrilegious to use a scalpel to slice waffles?

"Okay, nobody explicitly," Kara admits with a cheeky smile, "but can any of you actually say that I'm not?"

Lena finds an abandoned plastic fork that she sanitises with a disinfectant wipe, and then hands it to her. "Hush," she says, "and eat your waffles."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Lena drags a chair closer to the bed and takes a seat. "That is the second time I've been called that in the last twenty-four hours."

"You command respect."

"It was Quinn."

Kara laughs, stuffing a very large bite of waffle into her mouth. "Tell me more," she mumbles through her bite of food. Which is a little bit gross. She's lucky she is cute.

"How much do you remember about last night?" Lena asks.

Kara's forehead develops a crinkle. "Um. There were people trapped in the basement of a house. But they weren't actually trapped. It was a setup." Her crinkle gives way to an actual frown. "They had alien weapons. Alex thinks it's the same people who have been popping up with them the last few months. She's convinced we're looking for a dealer here."

Based on what she and Alex texted about earlier, that makes sense. Lena can ask some questions of the Luthor social circle and maybe rustle up some truths disguised as rumours.

"I was in the sky, though," Kara says, looking confused. "I can't remember why. To get away from them? I know Alex and the other agents arrived at the house eventually, but - " she stops, shrugging. "I don't know. But I got hit mid-flight, and then I fell." Her lips twist together in thought. "Wait. Why do I remember Quinn? Was she there?"

"She was there," Lena confirms. "You landed in front of L-Corp and she found you."

"What was she even doing there?"

"Apparently, she was meeting Rachel."

Kara eats some more waffle, chews and swallows. "Rachel? Wait. Rachel, as in her… special friend Rachel?"

"Indeed."

"Whoa."

Lena shakes her head. "Talk about a romantic gesture, hmm," she muses. "Flew across the country to declare her love. I caught them making out in my kitchen this morning."

Kara grimaces. "What was that like?" she asks. "It's totally gross whenever Alex and Kelly kiss in front of me, even if it's also cute."

Lena laughs. "It was fine," she says. "They just ended up burning a waffle."

"Oh, this one is a little crispy," Kara comments, but eats it anyway.

"The two of you talked," Lena explains. "I don't know what you said to her in the state you were in, but I'm convinced she knows who you are."

Kara freezes. "What?"

"She hasn't actually said anything, but she's also very carefully not said anything, if you know what I mean."

"Oh."

"You won't need to worry, though," Lena assures her. "Quinn is very good at keeping secrets."

"I'm not really worried about that, though Alex will probably need her to sign some things," Kara says. Then: "You know, you're the second person I've ever actually told."

"Excuse me?"

"Everyone else already knew, or they were told by other people," Kara explains. "I just showed Winn, before the whole 'Supergirl' thing, and I told Nia, because I took on a role as mentor and I didn't know how to do that without confessing. But you, Rao, you have always been - do you have any idea what you mean to me?" She sets the container aside - food still inside - and looks right at Lena. "Do you?"

"Kara, this isn't - "

"I heard you last night."

Lena goes completely still, her breath catching.

"You and Alex," she clarifies. "I might not remember what happened with Quinn, but I heard you two talking, and I - I never knew."

Lena can't hold her blue gaze anymore. "Of course, you didn't," she says. "As much as I wanted you to hurt the way I was, it would have been cruel to tell you."

"Lena." She reaches out a hand that Lena immediately takes. "I am so sorry. I'm sorry you couldn't tell me what you had to do. I'm sorry your fears were used to hurt you, and I'm sorry my actions made them believable. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you through it, because I can't even imagine having to do something like that." She takes her first shaky breath. "But, most of all, I'm sorry that my selfish fear of losing you by telling you the truth ended up hurting you in unimaginable ways."

Lena wipes at her eyes with her free hand. "You just keep apologising," she points out, annoyed.

"Almost done," Kara says. "One more."

"For now," Lena grumbles, breathing in deeply and preparing herself.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to tell you, because you should have heard it from me first," Kara says, which is the big one. It's the one thing Lena's sure she'll never stop apologising for. It is the one thing that broke them, and Lena can't think of what else she's found to atone for. But then she adds another one, because she's a dirty liar, and says, "But I'm especially sorry I didn't tell you I'm in love with you the second I realised I was."

Oh.

Oh no.

They can't - this isn't -

"Wait, Kara - " Lena starts, because she's not ready for this. She's not. They're building to it, leading to it slowly. There's no need to rush. She can't just -

Kara's smile is full of understanding. "It's okay," she says. "That's all I needed to say." She lifts the container back into her lap. "Why don't you tell me why these waffles taste so much like coconut?"

Lena is all too willing to latch onto the topic change.


Lena calls while Rachel is bending to smell a certain flower, and Quinn steps back to answer with a soft, "Hey."

"Hello, you," Lena says. "Everything okay?"

Quinn considers the question carefully. "Sort of. I don't know." She turns to face away from Rachel, taking several steps away. "What about you?"

"Kara told me she's in love with me." The words come out rushed, just a little high, and Quinn hasn't really experienced the resemblance between the two of them until this moment.

"You're not actually surprised by that, are you?"

"Well, a little, yes," she says. "I mean, not that she is, but that she told me. I thought we were under the mutual agreement that we weren't ready yet and she just jumped forward."

"What exactly are you waiting for?"

"What are you waiting for?"

Quinn glances over her shoulder to see that Rachel has moved on to another selection of flora. "Bring her to dinner tonight," she says, in lieu of an answer. "We'll double date."

"Wow."

"Bad idea?"

"I can't tell," Lena says. "I don't think any of us is at any kind of place to be committing to what an evening like that would mean."

"You're in love with her, too," Quinn states. There isn't even a hint of a question in her tone, because Quinn is just as certain of Lena's feelings for Kara as Lena is. "I think, after last night, there's no more reason to wait."

"Quinn."

"Lena."

She's silent long enough that Quinn turns around and watches Rachel quietly talk to a pair of birds that are perched on a branch close to her head. In this moment, Quinn can barely believe she exists. Rachel Berry - sweet, amazing, a little bit lost and broken Rachel Berry - is here with her and talking to birds. Quinn gets the feeling they're past the hardest part, but -

"I don't want to feel that kind of hurt again," Lena finally confesses, like a secret. "If we do this, and it all goes wrong again, I don't know how I survive."

"I'm not saying anything is going to go wrong, but you will survive it," Quinn tells her. "No relationship is always smooth sailing, but I think the worst is over, right? The worst thing that could happen, happened, and you're still kicking and feeling and loving. I mean, can you even imagine that, Lena? After all the shit you've been through with your family and just in the world as a whole, you still have this massive capacity for love that I count myself lucky I get to feel even a little bit of it."

"Quinn."

"What?"

"I am so glad I met you."

Quinn's breath catches. She's not prepared for this conversation, and it's really not something they should be doing over the phone. "The stars aligned, I know, but you're purposefully not listening to me."

"Both those statements are true."

"You're almost as difficult as I am," Quinn's says. "Stubborn and proud, too."

"If I do this, then you have to, as well," Lena says. "I know you have your own hangups that you're trying to suppress, but she flew here to see you, and it's something I definitely would have done for Kara and I'm one hundred percent in love with her."

Quinn laughs, but she's aware enough to realise this is the first time Lena has said the words out loud. "One hundred percent?"

"Ninety-nine, maybe."

"Is that what we're doing?" Quinn asks. "Baiting each other into finally going after what we really want in order to be happy?"

"If that's what you want to call it."

Quinn's posture shifts. "Fine," she says.

"Fine."

"I will have a girlfriend by tonight."

"So will I," Lena declares, and then sucks in a breath. "If she wants, of course."

"Go on then."

"I'm going."

"I'm waiting."

Lena hums. "I really am glad I met you."

"Me too," Quinn returns, and she means it. The stars really did align to have them meet when they did, Lena waiting as long as she did to read Kara's letter and Frannie choosing that time to send Quinn the link to the article.

They met, and something happened. They met, and something just clicked. They didn't know it then, but the world as they knew it was adjusting and settling. They were making their mother's one dying wish come true: they found each other.

"I really am going," Lena says. "Supergirl's being discharged, so I should say goodbye."

"Uh huh."

"I'll see you later," Lena says. "Figure out the restaurant you want to go to, and I'll get us a table."

"For four."

"Goodbye, Quinn," she says, and then hangs up.

Quinn just smiles to herself as she pulls her phone away from her ear and looks at the screen. The call has ended and it fades to black, leaving Quinn to do something.

Rachel is here. She flew across this country just to see Quinn; to tell her she's sorry and that she loves her. In another life, Quinn wouldn't even be questioning this, but Quinn has already been through a lot.

Can it just be this easy?

Not that it will be. Quinn suspects any future they want together will be filled with speed bumps, but Quinn also knows she'll be more miserable without Rachel and, contrary to popular belief, she's not actually that much of a masochist.

Lena is right, though.

Quinn knows exactly what to do.

Right now, though, what she does is pocket her phone, take a breath, and walk towards Rachel. Doesn't stop until she's right in her space, body pressed as close as possible, and kisses her. Steals the breath right from her lungs and licks into her mouth, telling her everything and anything without saying any words.

Rachel's hands find Quinn's shoulders, steadying herself, and Quinn can feel her smile against her lips. It's wide enough that their kiss ends, turning into a shared giggle. "What was that for?" Rachel asks, looking at her with wide eyes.

"No reason," Quinn says, because there isn't any one reason - not really. Maybe many. "We're probably going to have dinner with Lena and Kara, which may or may not be awkward at times, but I think it'll be a good evening."

"Okay."

"It might even be a double date."

Rachel nods. "Their first one?"

"Possibly."

"Maybe we can ease the pressure of it," Rachel offers. "We've already had ours."

"This one right now, or the one in New York?"

Rachel gives it some thought, the fingers of her left hand playing with the ends of Quinn's hair. "I think we should start with today," she says. "I wasn't ready before, not quite in the right mindset for us to work then. This time - this is our start."

Quinn kisses her again, deeply. It would go on for hours, she's sure, but the fingers of Rachel's right hand's slip into the waistband of her jeans and pull, and Quinn's brain is forced to remember they're in semi-public.

Rachel blinks innocently when they break apart, and, yeah, the wildlife can wait.

So can the whole of National City.

"Do you want to get out of here?" Quinn asks.

Rachel looks her in the eyes, maybe to determine if she's serious or not, and then says, "Definitely."


The first thing Kara wants to do once Alex lets her escape the sunlamps is eat potstickers. That's not the surprising part. What does catch Lena by surprise is that Kara wants her to stay with her.

So Lena does.

They get a mountain of takeout on the way to Kara's apartment from the DEO, Lena not even a little thrown by the fact she's now sure Kara can put it all away in a single sitting. It's an interesting part to Kara that Lena will admit to being interested in. Just how fast does she burn through calories?

It's been so long since Lena has been in Kara's apartment, and she almost kids herself into thinking anything would have changed. Her apartment is just as warm, smells just the way Lena remembers, and is just as messy. The first thing she really notices is a light blanket haphazardly thrown on the couch, as if she were in a rush, and it makes her think of Quinn, who would never stand for such a thing.

It's just one of her quirks.

Kara marches straight into the kitchen, setting their food on the island and immediately taking out various containers. She's obviously a woman on a mission, and Lena uses the time to take in the room she was convinced she would never see again.

She's here, now, and they're in a better place, and what is she waiting for?

"Ooh, yes," Kara says to herself, doing a little hop in place. "This smells so good."

Lena just stands and watches her, absently wondering if they could actually do this. This.

Date. Be together. She talked the good talk with Quinn earlier, but Lena's not sure. How can she be sure? She's entertained the idea before, of course. Before the world imploded and left her flailing. Before she even knew Kara had the ammunition to hurt her so deeply.

Lena should be used to it: that kind of hurt.

"Quinn is my sister," she blurts, and Kara freezes where she's just stuffed a whole potsticker into her mouth. Kara already knows this, sure, but there are other things she doesn't. "When I met her, I didn't know that."

Kara chews quickly, and then gives Lena her full attention. Lena's never told her any of this. How she actually came to meet Quinn, the (happy) accident it ended up being.

"We met on a random Thursday," Lena continues, standing perfectly still. "Just one entirely random day out of all the days. She was sitting in the last row of the support meeting when I went to Gotham City, and I sat two seats over. She was just there, and we somehow got to talking and, before I knew it, we spent four days together doing nothing really important, and I just knew - I knew in my heart she was important." Lena's gaze meets Kara's. "I have felt that with only one other person."

The who is abundantly clear to them both.

Lena takes a small step forward. "We figured it out only when she came to Ireland," she says. "I had no idea who she was, but I felt it. I felt it, Kara, and I knew not to ignore it, even if I didn't understand it." She takes a breath, steeling herself. "Which is why I'm done ignoring this."

Kara is still just standing there, staring at her.

"I've known how I feel for a long time," she says. "It's one of the reasons it hurt as much as it did. The lie, the betrayal, all of it, because I gave you all these pieces of myself, let you in so far, and it was - it felt like not a single moment was real."

"But it was," Kara cuts in. "The important parts, they were all real."

"I know," Lena says.

She knows.

Of course, she knows.

Logic is one thing, but her mind has managed to create many different twisted memories of their time together. She can remember things one way, and the lie forces it to change to something destructive.

"I forgave you before you ever told me," Lena tells her, and that is something she struggled with the most. Whether her ability to forgive was tied to her desire to hold onto people who appeared to care about her. If her desire to keep Kara would have her forgive other atrocities. It made her think about Lex, and she hated it.

Hated Kara, for making her feel that, and it was terrifying.

Lena isn't generally afraid of things, but Quinn is right. What more is there to be afraid of now when the worst has already happened? They broke apart in such a dangerous way, and still somehow ended up here together. Some force of will; some twist of fate; some work of a higher power Lena sometimes isn't certain she believes in.

"I forgave you before the truth you're Supergirl even became something you would have to tell me," Lena tells her. "I forgave you before there was even something between us to betray."

Maybe before Lena even met her.

"I forgive you," Lena says, clear and concise, so Kara can't mistake her meaning. "I don't know how I know it, but I know you won't hurt me like that again. In other ways, maybe, because one of us is a human being, but we will make mistakes, and we'll make decisions that will hurt the other, but this is the first time it feels as real as can be, and you have to know that I, too, am in love with you."

Kara looks genuinely surprised. Her mouth even drops open, and Lena would find it all amusing if her heart wasn't threatening to pound straight out of her chest. "You are?"

Lena puffs out a breath. "I know I said I'm not ready, but that's just something I keep telling myself because it would be so easy just to give in to all of this, and nothing in my life has ever been easy."

"I'm easy," Kara blurts, and then flushes a deep, deep red. "I mean - not that - I - you know what I mean."

"Do I?"

"Lena," she whines, and then she takes several steps forward, her destination obvious. She clears her throat. "I hear what you're saying, but I'm not exactly sure what you're telling me."

"Quinn wants to have a last dinner tonight," she says, "before they leave tomorrow."

Kara nods. "Okay."

"Will you accompany me?"

"What?"

Lena's heart beats even faster. "Will you go to dinner with me?"

Kara's expression shifts as understanding dawns. "Like, as, um, not just like your, uh, not best friend? What? That doesn't even make sense. Kara, what are you even saying?"

"Kara," Lena says, feeling a smile tug at the edges of her lips as she interrupts Kara's little ramble to herself.

She clears her throat. "Dinner," she says, "as your Kara?"

"Yes." Then: "As someone who could be a girlfriend." Because she needs her intentions to be clear, and Quinn won't let her forget it if Kara doesn't see this is as what it actually is.

Kara blinks. "Oh."

Which is okay. Lena wasn't even sure what to expect. It feels as if they're having several different conversations at the same time, the two of them existing on separate planes, while still remaining connected. Entangled.

Then Kara asks, just a little shyly, "A double date?"

Lena goes still. "As far as I'm aware," she says; "but we don't have to call it that if you don't want to."

"I want to."

As far as she's concerned, Lena's heart is never going to beat normally ever again. "You want to?" she asks, needing the clarification. "Go on a double date? With me, and my sister and her maybe-girlfriend?"

"Yes."

"You're sure?"

Kara's expression shifts, softening right before Lena's eyes. "Do you know how many times I imagined a moment like this?" she says. "Wished it into existence countless times, dreamed of getting to be here with you again. Do you know?"

"No, I don't."

"I would stare at pictures of us, alone in my misery at home, and think about all the ways I messed up and how I could fix it, if you'd let me. I would look at us and wonder about what we could have been if I'd been less of a coward; if my fear of losing you hadn't clouded my thoughts to the point where it stopped mattering when I told you. We were always going to break."

They were. It's a sentiment that remains. It was an inevitable, and now they're on the other side of it, discussing going on a double date as if it's not anything monumental.

Maybe it's not.

It doesn't have to be.

If anything, the two of them have been dating for years without actually acknowledging it. They already know the surface things about each other, as well as some of the deepest things. They've already seen each other bleed, hurt each other in new ways, and saved each other's lives on numerous occasions. What else is there to learn?

What are they waiting for?

Kara sees her coming. She's a super-powered being, so she sees Lena cross the space between them in time to be able to catch her around the waist, strong arms steadying her easily. "What are you - " Kara starts, but then Lena is kissing her.

It is as an effective way to shut her up as any.

Oh.

The kiss starts slow, just a pressing of lips, but Lena feels it all the way to the tips of her toes. She feels lightheaded, tingling in all her extremities. Lena had an idea. A smidgeon of one, of what it would be like to kiss Kara. She allowed herself to think about it only a handful of times, but the reality is nothing she could have imagined.

Kara's grip tightens at her sides, drawing her closer, and the kiss deepens in a way that it feels as if their souls are introducing themselves to each other. It's everything. It's just -

Lena pulls away when she feels something wet, and she blinks back into the present to find tears on Kara's cheeks. After her initial shock at the sight, she uses her thumbs to wipe them away. "Darling, why are you crying?"

"I'm sorry," she says, shaking her head. "I just - I never thought I would ever get this." There are more tears. "You told me we were done. You looked at me and it was like you weren't seeing me, and I couldn't - I never saw a way through that, but we're here, and you're in my arms, and I'm just - Lena, I'm just so happy."

"But you're crying."

"They're happy tears."

Lena wipes her cheeks again, and then gently kisses each one. "You're beautiful, Kara." She can't remember a time she's ever said the words to Kara's face, so she's taking the opportunity to do so.

Kara gives her an incredulous look. "Sure," she scoffs, "Coming from the most gorgeous human being in the Universe."

Lena raises an eyebrow. "Just 'human being?'"

Kara chuckles. "Sorry to break it to you, Lena, but there are some truly ethereal beings out there that cannot be described with human language."

"Wow."

"Space can be awesome."

"It's no wonder Quinn wants to go up there."

Kara grins. "Maybe she'll actually enjoy going flying with me," she says, and then fakes a cough. "Unlike some people."

"She and I are remarkably similar in many ways, but that is not one of them," Lena informs her, forearms resting on Kara's shoulders. She doesn't think she's going to be able to stop touching Kara now that she's allowed to. It's something she was worried about, of course, but not anymore.

Kara holds her gaze, mouth curled into a sweet smile.

"What?"

"Nothing." She shakes her head again. "Just trying to take in the moment. How good it feels. I'm not even hungry anymore."

Lena laughs. "Oh, I don't believe that for a second," she says, shifting her weight back. "You've been singing about your potstickers since Alex let you go. They're your favourite."

"You're my favourite."

"You can't eat me, Kara," Lena points out, and then immediately regrets it when Kara turns beet red and merely raises her eyebrows as if to say, Can't I?

Lena kisses her again, fingers playing with the tiny hairs on the back of her neck. It's meant to be a placating kiss, something to sate them while they eat their food, but Kara doesn't seem to be on the same page. Not at all.

She lets out a little shriek when Kara lifts her off the ground, turns them both, and sets her gently on the island top. Her left hand softly nudges Lena's knees apart, and she steps right into the vacated space and licks further into Lena's mouth. She lets out this sound, something deep and primal, and Lena feels heat pool between her legs.

That talented mouth drifts along her jaw and down to her neck, Lena's fingers gripping Kara's hair and trying desperately not to beg for more. But Kara must have a super power they haven't yet discovered, because she must read Lena's mind. With a little growl, Kara's hands slide down her back, grab onto the flesh she finds there and drags Lena close enough that she's able to grind against Kara's abdomen.

"Oh." She lets out a shuddering breath, grips Kara's hair and directs her mouth back to her own. Their kiss is ferocious now, obviously leading somewhere, and Lena doesn't have the willpower to stop and keep talking about this.

She wants this.

She wants Kara. And Kara proves she wants her just as much when she bites Lena's bottom lip hard enough to bruise, and then drops to her knees right in front of her.

Well.

It seems Kara can eat her.


The sex is different.

It's immediately apparent from the moment they stumble into the penthouse, hands already reaching for each other and giggles filling the air between them. They're actually looking at each other, eyes a little wide, because this is really happening, and they're both smiling.

It's desire, like before, but there's something else. Quinn knows it's a cliché, but she knows they're going to make love today, rather than just have sex. It's there, existing between them, and Quinn wonders if she should address it.

Before she can think to say anything, Rachel pushes her against a wall and kisses her so thoroughly that deeper thought doesn't quite exist until Quinn can stop her knees from threatening to buckle.

It's been a while, okay?

Sue her.

"Hey," Quinn says, pulling away enough to be able to look at her. "I know what this is now, but I need you to say it."

Rachel gives her a very serious look. "I tried it once," she says. "Casual sex. With Brody. I don't know if you remember him. I thought it was something I could do, but it was too soon after Finn and I went on our break, and I just - it's not something I can do." She breathes out. "It was definitely not something I could have ever done with you, and I don't know why I tried to convince myself I could."

Rachel's fingertips trace the line of Quinn's cheekbones, quietly marvelling at how soft her skin is. "This is not casual sex," she states. "This is I-want-to-love-you-forever sex, and I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you sex, and I-never-want-you-to-feel-that-way-ever-again sex. This isn't even just sex, Quinn. It's never actually been."

It's everything Quinn needs to hear. Perhaps more, because Rachel is talking about forever and the rest of their lives. It's a relief to know the two of them are dealing in the same currency.

"We're going to figure this all out," Rachel tells her. "I don't know how the next few months are going to go, but I do know I want this, and I want you, and I'm willing to say and do what I can to keep you, and keep you happy."

It's the first time Quinn feels the weight of it; of Rachel's words. How heavy they are. How they're tied to so much more than just this moment. "I'm not Finn," she says, and the words surprise them both; d'Oise them in cold water and have the potential to ruin the mood. "You don't have to be somebody you're not, just for me to stay," she adds, unsure if the words truly apply.

Rachel's expression shifts as the meaning of Quinn's words settle. She sucks in a breath, her eyes closing for a moment. "People usually don't stay, then," she says.

"I'm not usual people," Quinn reminds her. "You said it yourself, Rachel. I accept you for you, so you just have to be you. I'm not going anywhere."

Rachel rests her hand on Quinn's cheek, just feeling her skin rather than caressing. "You say you're not Finn," she says, "but you also almost died."

It's been more than two years since the accident, and Quinn is largely okay. There have been a few health scares in the time since, consequences of a decreased lung capacity, compromised kidney function and her short-term paralysis. She's definitely never going to be back to the way she was before, but she's still trying to get to as healthy as she can be beyond that.

"You almost died," Rachel says again. "Back then, I couldn't stand the thought of that, and I don't - you are not allowed to - "

"Baby."

Her mouth snaps shut.

"You know as well as I do that I have no control over what happens to me," Quinn says, "just as much as Finn didn't."

Rachel suddenly looks lost. They've never really talked about this. They've talked about so little, but Finn is a topic they won't be able to hide from if they plan to be serious about this relationship. "I don't - we can't - you don't have to - "

"Baby," she says again.

"We've never talked about him," Rachel says. "It's just not something we do."

"Well, I think not talking about things has been one of our bigger problems," she says. "We don't have to do it now, of course, but I want you to know that you can talk to me about anything, if you want to. We're in this now, which means all the hard stuff, too."

Rachel's thumb touches her bottom lip. "I hadn't been able to breathe properly," she says. "It's like I was suffocating under this weight of expectation; this future laid out for me, and I - Quinn."

"What?"

"I felt like I could breathe again," she confesses, so quietly that Quinn barely hears her. "When the news came. When Carole called Kurt and told him, the first thought I had was I'm free, and I can't - what kind of person am I, Quinn? I never thought I would become this person. Awful and selfish. A monster. Who does that? I loved him. He was - it was - but I just - I couldn't do it anymore, and I didn't know how to - "

"Hey."

"I'm sorry," Rachel says, voice catching on a suppressed sob. "I'm so sorry."

Quinn realises very quickly that Rachel isn't apologising to her, and she pulls her into a hug, the two of them leaning against the wall right by Lena's penthouse door. Rachel sobs against her shoulder, hands gripping Quinn's coat as tightly as physically possible. Quinn knows this is something she needs, and it's something Quinn will give her. It's the hard stuff.

Harder, still, because what Rachel has admitted is -

It's a lot.

But Quinn is the right person to make this confession to, because she understands. She understands more than anyone else because she experienced something similar. Buried under all the shock and heaviness of the news and the adoption scandal and the endless insults thrown at her, Quinn couldn't stop her brain from thinking, she's free.

Rachel, sure, but also Quinn.

"You're not awful," Quinn tells her, a hand smoothing over her hair. "Maybe a little selfish, but we already established that and, really, who isn't these days? You're definitely not a monster. Of course you loved him. He knew that, everyone knew that, but loving someone doesn't automatically mean - "

"I didn't want him to die," she forces out.

Quinn almost laughs, because that is not something any sane person would think about Rachel - ever. No, that thought is left for people like Quinn. "Of course you didn't," Quinn assures her. "Neither did I."

Rachel pulls back quite suddenly, eyes red and cheeks splotchy. "I know that," she says.

"Do you?" Quinn counters, unsure how they've even got to this point when they were seconds from undressing each other. "Because I know you saw what they said about me. I know Kurt and Santana have shit-talked me endlessly. Others, too. You've never said anything."

It's a fear Quinn has. That being with Rachel this way would invite further discourse because, without Finn around, they can be together.

"Quinn?"

"You acted like you hated me," Quinn points out, and it feels like they keep going in a circle.

"Quinn, no, I would never - " she stops, her explanation dying on her lips.

Because Quinn already knows what the problem was now. Rachel never hated Quinn, no; she hated herself. "But you didn't, did you?"

"I never have."

"Because you love me."

"I always have."

Quinn tilts her head back until it hits the wall with a soft thud. "I never knew the whole having sex thing would be the easiest part of all of this."

Rachel shouldn't laugh. Objectively, nothing about this is funny, but the two of them end up giggling uncontrollably for long enough that the tension seems to bleed out of the air.

Then Rachel is saying, "I love you, and we're both probably going to need a lot of therapy to make sure this works, but I'm sick of how it feels not to be with you." She looks right into Quinn's eyes. "I think we need to decide right now if we can be a you-and-me-versus-the-world, instead of a you-versus-me."

Quinn doesn't know how realistic that's all going to be, seeing as they're living in different cities, but she's also sick of how it feels not to be with her. "Okay."

"Okay?"

"I'm going to start calling you my girlfriend now, so I hope that's okay," Quinn tells her.

"I don't even get asked?" Rachel asks, and there's a small smile on her face.

"Nope," Quinn says, ducking her head and stealing a kiss. "I make the rules now. You're my girlfriend."

"You and me against the world, hmm?"

"Things are about to get crazy," Quinn says, and she can't imagine just how right she'll end up being.

"They can get crazy right now," Rachel says, and very purposefully tugs on Quinn's belt buckle.

Quinn lets out a laugh. "You're an idiot."

"That's the third time you've called me that in like twenty-four hours," she points out. "I might develop a complex."

"Shut up and kiss me."

Rachel smiles at her in that way that Quinn knows she sees all of her. This is whom they are to each other. The realest, ugliest they've ever been.

Something has changed.

Everything has changed.

And so, as a result, the sex is different.

It's just so much better.


"Is that a hickey?"

Lena knows for a fact she's covered up all the visible marks Kara left on her body, but it still takes a concerted effort not to cover her neck with her hand in blind panic at being caught out.

Instead, she gently shoves Quinn, who is grinning like the annoying little sister she is. "I see you've forgotten your manners, Quinn," she says. "Aren't you going to make the introductions?"

Quinn rolls her eyes, but reaches blindly for Rachel, who is standing just to her side, and their hands automatically link. "Rachel, come meet Kara," she says. "Kara, this is Rachel Berry, future Broadway star and my very stunning girlfriend."

Smiling at Quinn's introduction, Kara steps forward to shake Rachel's hand, but Lena isn't quite paying attention anymore. She's just reached a startling realisation. Quinn loves Rachel, and she'll want to be with her for as long as possible. Rachel has aspirations of Broadway, which means New York, which means -

Lena knows Quinn won't ever move to National City now.

Maybe Lena will have to recalibrate her future plans. New York isn't too far away from Metropolis, and there are L-Corp offices there. But Lena can't move back there, not without Kara, and she knows Kara can't be Supergirl in a city that is Superman's. And Lena would never ask Kara to leave her sister just so Lena can be near hers.

She's going to have to give it a lot more thought. When Quinn is gone and Lena can make plans without worrying about not spending enough time with her. It's just that they've already missed out on so much, and Lena can't stand the thought of missing out on any more.

There's still so much she has to learn about her, as well. She's this entire person, formed and moulded without Lena getting to witness it, and now there are all these things she should know.

Like, is Quinn allergic to anything? What's her favourite sport? Does she have any pet peeves? Why did she pick Yale? Does she ever miss her father the way Lena misses hers? These are all things Lena wants to learn, and she doesn't know how she's supposed to do that if she sees her only every other week.

She startles a little when she feels Kara's hand gently press against the small of her back, her head turning to see blue eyes full of concern. "Your heart," she murmurs. "Are you okay?"

No.

She's not okay.

"Later," is what she says in response, and then turns her attention to Quinn, who is currently peeking around Rachel's head to see if their table is ready. "I think I should be asking you that question," she says, eyeing Quinn's neck.

"Hmm?"

"Is that a hickey?"

To Lena's surprise, Quinn doesn't blush or even look remotely self-conscious. In fact, she smirks, proud and wonderful, and says, "Well, Lena, if you must know, it is indeed."

Lena already misses her.


They're already half an hour into what is turning into a rather pleasant dinner when Rachel leans into Quinn and whispers, "Quinn, why does Kara sound like Supergirl?"

Quinn is proud of her own reaction - which is just to freeze in place - especially when Kara actually chokes on her own drink across the table. Rachel stares at her with wide eyes, and Lena gently pats her back in concern as she tries to recover.

Quinn clears her own throat, focus on Rachel as Lena fusses over Kara. "Why would you ask that?" she asks, equally as quietly.

"Oh. Um." Her eyes look back at Quinn. "I have perfect pitch, remember? They might say words differently, but they definitely have the same voice."

Kara's knee hits the bottom of the table, and all of them have to reach out to make sure none of their drink glasses end up toppling over. "Oh, golly, sorry," she says, expression slightly panicked as she looks at Quinn. She must realise it's impossible to explain away the literal pitch of her voice, so her shoulders slump in something like defeat.

Rachel leans into Quinn again and says, "I just realised that, if she is Supergirl, she can probably hear every word I'm saying."

Quinn smiles gently and presses a kiss to her cheek. "I don't know if it's possible for her to have a heart attack, but why don't we stop trying to give her one?"

"Oh. Right. Sorry." Rachel sends a small smile towards Kara, and says, "I won't tell anyone, if you're worried," under her breath. "Thank you for all you've done."

Kara returns her smile for a genuine moment before she groans. "Alex is going to kill me," she mutters, reaching for her wine and downing it all.

It shouldn't be funny, but Quinn starts laughing, which makes Rachel laugh, and Kara can't contain herself once the other two really get going. It's only Lena who's left out, looking at them as if they've all truly lost it.

Kara is the one who takes pity on her, leaning over to kiss her cheek and whisper a few words to her. Lena's expression settles into understanding, and then she laughs, soft and pretty.

"Oh, yes," Lena says, reaching for her wine and taking a sip. "Alex is definitely going to kill you."

Chapter Text

xi. i've been having a hard time adjusting

Kara wouldn't really say Lena gets sad when Quinn leaves, but it's something close. She goes quiet, which is really saying a lot because she's already a quiet person. It's just that it's unnerving actually witnessing it.

Because Kara does get to see how it happens; the way it seems to creep up on her and then yank her into a sombre state. It isn't an emotion Kara doesn't recognise, of course, because she spends a lot of time missing a lot of people. She just doesn't know how she's meant to help Lena with this.

Alex insists that Quinn and Rachel - and Lena, apparently - sign all the necessary documents before they leave National City, which is how the two of them end up at Lena's penthouse just before Quinn and Rachel are scheduled to leave.

The first thing Kara notices is how calm everything is. Suitcases are already lined up at the door, backpacks on an armchair, and absolutely no last-minute packing happening. It's in such startling contrast to how a Danvers' household would look just before a cross country trip.

As much as Eliza tried, Alex, Kara and Jeremiah were disasters enough that she would eventually give up. They never ever left on time.

They still don't.

It's Rachel who answers the door, her phone in her one hand and a small smile on her face. "Come in," she says. "Quinn and Lena are just in Lena's office. They should be out in a few."

Kara feels a ripple of uncertainty, but Alex just crosses the threshold without a second thought. Kara kind of wishes Lena answered the door, just so she could know it's actually okay she's here. It's silly, she knows, especially after what happened the day before, but she can't help it. They still have things they need to talk about, and Kara's place in her life is one of them.

Rachel waves her inside, and Kara can't ignore her, so she steps into the room and closes the door behind her. "Sorry," Rachel says. "They're doing some kind of sister thing before we leave, and I'm just - " she points at her phone " - trying to get my parents to stop nitpicking the fact my friends showed up at their house to pick me up this morning and I wasn't actually there." And then she turns and disappears out of sight.

Alex has drifted to the coffee table, where she's already kneeling and taking out various forms. "I assume that was the sister's girlfriend," she says.

Kara takes a few steps further into the room. "That was Rachel, yes," she says. "Quinn's girlfriend."

Alex looks up, her mouth to the side to indicate she's thinking of something rather hard. "The probability of all of this is kind of fascinating," she says. "Two pairs of sisters, all four with girlfriends. What are the chances of that?"

"About the same as the other four of us all being adopted," Kara comments, and Alex's eyes widen.

"No shit?" she says. "Rachel, too?"

"Yip."

"Trippy."

Kara moves to sit on the couch, watching as Alex lays out separate piles for all three of them. As trusting as they are of Lena - especially after everything they've been through - Alex is all about procedure. At times, it can be irritating, but it also makes her very good at her job.

Kara takes a look around the room, unable to put a finger on just what's so different about this place. It even feels different, and not in a bad way. It's a good way, but it is different, and Kara doesn't like that so much has managed to change without her being witness to it.

From first viewing, not much is vastly altered. All the furniture Kara remembers is still here, save for a new tall lampshade in the corner. It's one of those that has its switch as a foot pedal. The lamp hovers over a one-seater armchair, and there's a pile of books on the floor beside it.

Quinn's books, in Quinn's book corner.

Kara can't stop her own smile, realising that the reason the penthouse feels so different is because it is. It's Quinn's influence, in little bits and pieces.

When Rachel returns, she looks tense, but she still manages to smile at them. "Sorry about that," she says, and then very purposefully holds out her hand for Alex to shake. "I'm Rachel Berry."

Alex gets to her feet, her expression unreadable. From where Kara's sitting, she can see Rachel's grip is firm and strong, confident but not some kind of power-play. Alex is visibly impressed. "Alex Danvers," she replies. "The idiot's sister."

"Hey," Kara complains, and Alex tosses her a wink.

Rachel glances between them, and then looks at the table. "Some of these for me?"

Alex nods, levity gone. "Kara said you figured it out from her voice."

Rachel taps her earlobe with her forefinger. "I have a very good ear."

"Where can I get one of those?"

Rachel laughs. "Given to me by virtue of birth, I'm afraid," she says. "I've had to master all the rest."

"You're studying?"

"Musical theatre in New York, yeah," she says, kneeling when Alex does. "Kara mentioned you're an FBI agent, but we both know that's not entirely true."

Alex rolls her eyes. "I kind of fell into my line of work," she explains. "But I'd call myself a bio-engineer right now."

"She has a dual doctorate and an M.D.," Kara adds, immensely proud of her older sister, even if Alex likes to pretend her professional life before the DEO didn't quite exist. It all adds up to make Alex exactly whom she is.

"Yeah. Okay." Alex shifts some pages and places them in front of Rachel, clearly wanting the topic off herself. "It's not much," she explains. "Basically just makes sure you never tell anyone what you've learned of Kara's identity or we'll basically make you disappear."

Rachel gives her a critical look. "And you need, um, like five sets of forms for that?"

Kara snorts, and Alex shoots a glare at her. "She's got a point, Alex," she says. "She's obviously too smart to sign anything you give her without doing her due diligence."

Alex looks at Rachel. "Don't you have a flight to catch?"

Rachel just grins at her as she shifts to sit on her bottom, crossing her legs Indian-style. She scoots closer to the edge of the coffee table and starts to read.

Alex gives Kara an incredulous look, but it's just amusing to her. Like the old person she is, Alex huffs and groans as she lifts herself up to join Kara on the couch.

Kara swats her arm, gentle enough not to hurt her. "You're honestly the fittest person I know - what are you even doing?"

Alex puffs out a breath. "Kelly and I we - "

"Na ah," Kara cuts her off, hands already lifting to cover her ears. "I don't want to know."

Alex rolls her eyes. "No, silly, I'm trying to tell you that we went to this hot yoga class yesterday," she explains. "Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Hot yoga could really just be a euphemism."

Alex shakes her head. "I swear I almost died, Kar," she says. "It was literally the worst thing I've ever willingly done, and I didn't speak to Kelly for like five hours afterwards for even suggesting we try it."

"Alex, oh, wow."

"I'm not kidding," Alex says. "She's just lucky she's cute, because it was torture, and so grounds for the silent treatment."

"You're so dramatic."

"Just because you barely even sweat," Alex grumbles.

"You don't sweat?"

Kara looks up at the sound of Rachel's voice, noting the curiosity in her eyes. She just wants to know, which eases some of the worry in both her and Alex. People tend to react to Kara's second identity in various ways.

For some, it's just a thing, some experience a sense of awe that makes maintaining relationships sometimes difficult for her, others are too interested in her alien-ness, and the select few resent her for it.

Rachel is interested, but purely from curiosity.

Kara is an alien, after all.

"Not really," Kara answers. "I don't really exert myself enough in regular life to warrant it, but that doesn't mean I can't."

"Working out must be a breeze," she comments lightly, and then looks at Alex. "My one roommate and I also tried hot yoga, and I agree with you, wholeheartedly. I didn't speak to him for four days."

"He's probably not as cute as my girlfriend, I'm sure."

"He's also very gay."

Alex shrugs. "Who isn't, just a little, these days?"

It's not something Kara recalls ever having to think about before coming to Earth. A sexual preference. It sounds so severe and defining on this Earth, and it's something Kara misses about Krypton. A lot more things were straight forward there, so to speak.

"My other roommate has this joke that only people who aren't completely straight stay at our place," Rachel says. Pauses for a beat. "Including Quinn." Her expression shifts slowly, a realisation sinking in.

Alex glances at Kara, questions in her eyes, but Kara doesn't know any more than Alex does. "Are you okay?" Alex asks, because she truly is an older sister at heart. It's part of her makeup to be concerned.

Rachel looks at them, eyes a little helpless. "You know, I've spent years telling myself Quinn could never want me because she's not interested in girls," she says. "But that's not true at all, and I just - it was such a pitiful excuse I held onto, to deny us both all of this."

Kara leans forward. "You still seem… uncertain about something," she points out, possibly alluding to the conversation she was having on the phone when she and Alex arrived.

Rachel clears her throat. "My, um, those roommates I mentioned; they're not going to make it easy for us." She sighs. "Actually, I'm certain they're going to make it utter hell for us."

Kara hears something familiar in her voice: an exasperation that lingered a while whenever she was defending her friendship with Lena to her friends. It was a thankless, tiring task convincing the people around her Lena was nothing like her family, and it's worse that it's still ongoing.

Kara just knows she's going to have to defend what's happening with Lena to people who will question their relationship. Whether Lena's too good for her, or even whether Kara is too good for Lena.

"But you love her," Kara finds herself saying, and if she's thinking of Lena, that's for her and everyone else to know.

"I am so in love with her, I can't fight it anymore," Rachel says. "I want to be with her. I just - I'm probably going to have to move out, and I know Quinn is going to - "

"She'll feel guilty about it," Kara finishes, and she's speaking from some experience. Lena felt responsible for the tension in Kara's life, particularly in the beginning, and Kara has never wanted that for Lena. Or Quinn, or even Rachel.

"Sisters, huh?" Alex comments with a slight grin. "They can be weird."

Kara nods. "Alex and I once went on this - " she's abruptly cut off when Alex's hand clamps over her mouth.

"I know what you're going to say, and we both know I swore you to secrecy," Alex says. "Don't make me hurt you."

Kara moves Alex's hand away from her mouth. "I'm still in recovery, you know."

"Then shut up."

Kara winks at Rachel, who is quietly laughing to herself. She returns her attention to the words on the pages, and Kara leans back, allowing herself to relax… right until the moment Lena and Quinn emerge from somewhere in the penthouse.

Whatever they talked about seems to have left them both in a mood, and Kara watches as Quinn waves at them and moves to sit on the carpet beside Rachel, an arm sliding around her waist and her face hiding in brunette hair.

Kara watches Lena watch Quinn for a moment, but then she looks at Kara with this lost, helpless look, and Kara gets to her feet immediately. "Hey," she says, the word disguised as a simple greeting but attempting to convey that she's here and she's staying, for whatever Lena needs from her.

Lena's smile is small, grateful, and she reaches out with her right hand to take Kara's left. It's all she seems to allow herself, because then she looks at Alex and says, "Thank you for coming on such short notice."

Alex shrugs. "It's kind of necessary," she says. "Can't have a bunch of teenagers halfway across the country knowing about Kara's identity."

"We're twenty," Rachel comments, her hand casually resting on Quinn's thigh.

Kara doesn't enjoy the feeling of jealousy. It's not something she generally subscribes to, but there's a part of her that is envious of the ease with which they touch each other. It is obvious she and Lena still have a way to go.

"Still children to me," Alex says. "I mean, you're not even old enough to drink."

"Uh huh," Rachel murmurs, her head turning to kiss Quinn's hair. Then: "Where do we sign?"

That jolts Lena into action, and she takes charge of the next ten minutes. Kara knows Alex forwarded a soft copy some months before, but nobody actually followed up on it beyond Lena sending it through to her legal team.

Lena spends the next few minutes making sure nothing has changed, and then the three of them sign the dotted lines where they're supposed to.

It's done in next to no time, and then there's really no further reason for the Danvers sisters to remain.

Kara still stays.

When Alex leaves, clearly sensing there are things happening here that she shouldn't and doesn't want to be a part of, Kara isn't sure what's going to happen. Though, as soon as the door closes behind her, Quinn takes hold of Rachel's hand and disappears into her bedroom to finalise her packing they all know has already been finalised.

"I feel like a terrible host," Lena says, once they're also out of sight. "I didn't even offer you and Alex anything."

"We just came from brunch," Kara assures her. "She's had way too much coffee just this morning, anyway."

Lena nods, looking a little distracted.

Kara steps closer to her, tempted to reach out. "Is everything okay?"

"Hmm?"

"Is everything okay?" Kara repeats, though she suspects she already knows the answer because everything doesn't look okay.

Lena sighs heavily, and then she closes the gap between them, leaning her body against Kara's. It does little to help with Kara's heart rate or the steadiness of her breathing, but she can't help her smile. Maybe they don't have as far to go as Kara originally thought.

"I told her about the apartment I bought in New Haven," Lena suddenly says, which is also news to Kara. "It took a little while for the deal to go through and I wanted to have it furnished properly and ready before I told her. And then I did. And she - "

"Didn't take it well?"

"What?" Lena frowns. "No, nothing like that."

"Oh."

Lena shakes her head. "I think we're both just a little uncomfortable with just how similar we are."

Well, now, Kara's just confused.

Lena kisses her chin, light and easy. "Quinn found an apartment, too," she explains. "Wanted to see if I'd be interested in something like that."

"Oh."

Lena rolls her eyes. "A lot of things feel big, all of a sudden," she says. "She's embarking on this thing with Rachel, and I'm trying with you, and we're - she's just very far away."

Kara wraps her arms around her, selfishly hanging onto the truth that Lena is trying with her. "I mean, New Haven isn't that far," she tries. "I can get you there in no time."

"Oh, is that a perk of dating Supergirl, hmm?"

"Just one of them," Kara assures her, and she doesn't mean to be suggestive, but her voice dips without her say-so, and Lena looks at her like she doesn't recognise her.

It's not the same as it once was; when Lena would look at her and not see Kara. Now, when she looks at her, all she sees is Kara. This person she's still learning about, bringing all of Kara's identities into the one she wants Lena to know.

The real her.

With a smile, Lena asks, "What are you doing for the rest of the day?"

Kara blinks. "Um. Nothing that I'm aware of."

"Good."

Kara meets her gaze. "Care to share with the class?"

Lena gently pats her cheek. "It might take me a little while to get over Quinn's departure, but I would really like to take you on a date without my sister in attendance, if you're amenable."

It's honestly baffling that Lena would even look worried that Kara would say no, but there is uncertainty in her eyes that Kara wishes wasn't there. If Kara had it her way, she would spend every spare second she had with her. "I'm amenable," she assures Lena. "What did you have in mind?"

Lena opens her mouth, but her words get swallowed by the sound of Rachel's laughter. It floats through the penthouse as she and Quinn emerge, both of them looking about ready to leave. It's a sweet sound, almost foreign, but it fills Kara with relief and a little hope for the future.

Quinn smiles at Lena, the earlier mood having dissipated, and both Lena and Kara sigh in relief. That makes them exchange an amused look, and Kara is so stupidly glad they're almost on the same wavelength again.

Lena returns Quinn's smile, though it's tinged with a lingering sadness. "Ready to go?" she asks.

Quinn nods. "College waits for nobody," she declares, and isn't that the truth?

Because, honestly, neither does life.


Lena's plane flies them to New York.

Rachel is uncomfortable with it right until the moment Quinn leans in to whisper in her ear what exactly they could get up to on a private flight.

With everything that's coming in the next few days and weeks, Rachel wants to hold onto as much of the ease of being with Quinn as she can manage. She knows the next few weeks will be difficult, but that's just something they're going to have to get through, together.

When the time comes, Lena and Kara accompany them to the airstrip, hugging them both, and then Quinn boards the plane and sits very quietly for a full twelve minutes. Rachel is aware of her enough to know she's working through something very particular, and Quinn will find her way back to her when she's ready.

It's really freaking adorable when it happens, Quinn basically squishing herself into Rachel's seat and wrapping her limbs around her. It's such a contrast to a Quinn Fabray who wouldn't be caught dead showing this kind of affection when they were younger.

Rachel moves some hair off her forehead and smiles. "Hi."

Quinn smiles back, easy and pretty. "Hi," she whispers, and then kisses Rachel as gently as possible. "Thank you for coming to see me."

"It was either that or I lie in wait in your bedroom for you to get back," Rachel jokes, and then frowns when Quinn winces. "What?"

"That's actually happened before," she says. "We both screamed like a banshee."

Rachel blinks. "Some other girl has waited in your room for you?"

Quinn waits a beat, and then she laughs. "Is this your being jealous?"

"I'm just asking for clarification, Quinn."

Quinn kisses her again, a bit firmer, and Rachel conveniently forgets what had her so miffed in the first place. It might be Quinn's hand on her thigh, or maybe it's her fingers gently scratching at her scalp.

But, all too soon, the kiss ends, and Quinn is looking at her with a very serious expression. "I'm going to catch the train to New Haven," she says, as if it's not something they already decided before New York was even named as their destination. Her ticket is already booked. "That gives us, um, four hours. Is there anything you want to do?"

Rachel knows the question isn't asked as some kind of test, but there is an undercurrent of tension that simmers in Rachel at the thought of Quinn being in New York City for any amount of time, where anyone could see her, and them.

It's not something that'll just go away in a single day.

Quinn must be able to feel it, as close as she is, and her smile freezes for a moment. It's when she starts to pull away that Rachel reaches for her, hands on her cheeks and eyes begging her to understand.

"Just give me - Quinn, baby, please."

Quinn stares at her. "I don't know what you're asking of me."

Rachel isn't so sure, either. "I think I have to do this part alone," she says. "Tell them about us, and you, and what's going to happen from here on out."

"And what is going to happen from here on out?"

"I am going to love you with every cell in my body," Rachel tells her. "And not care an iota about what anyone else says or thinks."

Quinn doesn't look as if she believes her, which Rachel tries not to take too personally. It's terrifying enough just saying it out loud, let alone actually doing it. "Tell me what's been happening," Quinn gently instructs, and Rachel tells her.

Tells her everything.

She starts from the initial break from Finn after graduation, to trying to figure out her place in the world without him, to getting lost in the idea of Brody and New York City, to the desperate promises she made to Finn when she started to feel as if she would lose him forever, to the feeling of first kissing Quinn and how it broke her to pieces, to making the decision to put distance between them, to the summer trying to convince herself a life with Finn was what she really wanted in her future, to losing him forever and mourning him, to finding solace in Quinn, to feeling so guilty that she could barely eat or sleep, to putting a different type of distance between herself and Quinn, to talking to Kurt and Santana about her, to getting the final go-ahead from Carole, and to switching her ticket and flying to National City to profess her love to a girl she wasn't sure would ever be willing to try again.

Quinn doesn't say anything for a long, long time, and Rachel's sure they're going to end up getting to their destination before she actually speaks.

In the end, she doesn't really say anything. Just rests her forehead against Rachel's and breathes. That's it. Quiet and perfect, she just breathes.

"Was that too much?" Rachel whispers.

"For anyone else, maybe," Quinn says, and that's the truest statement. "I was under no pretence that our love story would be simple."

"Just didn't think it would be this complicated, huh?"

"I'm willing to try, Rachel," Quinn tells her. "The rest of it, we'll figure out."

Rachel gives her a look. "I don't remember you ever being this optimistic," she points out, because she can't not bring it up. It's just so unexpected of Quinn.

That gets a smile out of her. "It's Lena's fault," she says. "She's a terrible influence."

Rachel tucks some hair behind her ear. "I don't believe that for a second," she gently accuses. "You two are too alike."

"Well, she is my sister."

That draws Rachel up, her eyes wide with disbelief. She remembers Lena alluding to something like this, but she said it in passing; as if just claiming a familial relationship to signify just how important Quinn is to her. Apparently, it's more than that. "Wait. What?"

Quinn nods. "We found out when we were in Ireland."

"You were in Ireland?"

Quinn's tilts her head back, eyes on Rachel. "I found my adoptive mother."

"Quinn?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell me what's been happening."

She smiles at the echo of her own words, but she still says, "You wouldn't believe me."

"Try me."

Quinn nuzzles her cheek for a moment, and then she tells her an almost sensational tale. Rachel probably wouldn't believe any of it, if she weren't looking right into Quinn's eyes as she speaks. There isn't even a hint of an untruth in her gaze, or her voice.

She even finishes with a quipped, "I even came out to my mom," and smiles as if it wasn't anything monumental.

It's a lot to take in, and Rachel realises now just how right Carole was. Quinn definitely could have used a friend through all of this, and all Rachel did was add on to all her stress and turmoil by being her normal, chaotic self.

Rachel plays with the ends of Quinn's hair, twirling them around her fingers. "I'm sorry I wasn't there," she murmurs, tone heavy with meaning. "Not just as we are now, but even just as your friend. I spent so much of high school trying to become your friend, and then I just - "

"You're here now," Quinn assures her, and Rachel wonders if she's just accepting the love she thinks she deserves. If that is the case, Rachel vows to be more and give more and love more than she ever has before.

"I'm here now," Rachel echoes quietly. She's not going anywhere. Not if she can help it. "Are you okay, though?"

"Hmm?"

"You've been through a lot."

Quinn's head tilts to the left. "Lena and I talked about it," she says. "About getting back into therapy. You met Alex, yeah? Well, her girlfriend, Kelly, is a therapist, and she can recommend someone for her, and I - well, technically, I already have a therapist in New Haven."

Rachel blinks. "You do?"

"It's taken me years to figure out and accept that I am, indeed, gay, so yeah, I definitely needed some help wrapping my head around all of that."

Rachel can barely handle how much she's actually missed by not talking to her the way she should have from the very beginning. She's never been that checked out in a friendship or relationship before, and it was such a task to maintain that kind of distance. She's relieved now, and grateful, that she doesn't have to keep doing it.

Just giving up something that was difficult and exchanging it for something else. Their respective worlds aren't going to let them just be together. That would be too easy, and they're already aware they'll never have a simple love story.

"Hey," Quinn says, "you should probably know that I'm going to call Carole once I'm back in New Haven."

"And tell her…?"

"Thank you for the oat cookies," she says, "and thank you for reminding Rachel she's allowed to be happy - even if that happens to be with me."

"She'll be pleased to hear from you," Rachel says. "I didn't even know you two talked."

"I think I called her for the first time after I went to live with my mom again," Quinn explains. "I just - I guess fear can make you do some crazy things, and I needed to apologise, and thank her for letting me stay in her home, even if - you know."

Rachel does know. There are so many things in their past they'll have to unpack at some point, but they've already unloaded a lot of heavy tonight, and she doesn't think she can handle much more today.

"I think I know what I want to do once we're in New York," Rachel suddenly blurts.

Quinn looks predictably bemused. "And what's that?"

"I want to show you the theatre I'll be performing in this May," she says, nodding her head. "A real, genuine NYADA production. A big one."

"Wait, like a big, big one?"

Rachel gently tugs on a lock of her hair, and she's aware enough that she might actually be obsessed with the blonde strands. Maybe they both have a thing for hair. "You're here with me, so all my dreams are finally coming true."

Quinn blushes, and tries to hide it by ducking her head. "I'm proud of you," she whispers.

"Yeah?"

"Only if there's no actual nudity involved," Quinn jokes, clearly referring to the ill-advised almost-decision she made to star topless in a student film her freshman year.

Rachel grins at her. "Well, I mean, not on stage," she says with a wink, "But I have always dreamed of breaking in my dressing room with my significant other."

"You're an idiot," is what Quinn says in response, and Rachel really should have expected it.

"That's definitely not the first time you've called me that just in the two days we've been together," Rachel points out.

"I won't dispute that," she says. "As long as you know."

"You don't need to keep reminding me," she says, a slight whine in her voice. "Rather tell me something I don't know."

Quinn kisses her, just for a moment, and then says, "Is it just me, or does Kara look frighteningly like Marley?"


It takes nineteen minutes, but Lena seems to work through the stages of Quinn's departure, and comes back to herself with a small smile directed at Kara.

"Sorry," she says. "Thank you for being patient with me."

"You promised to feed me," Kara points out, which gets a delighted laugh from Lena that makes Kara want to get closer and closer. It's a thought she's had a number of times: wanting to crawl right into Lena and curl up in her soft warmth.

"I did promise that," Lena concedes, her smile just a little tired. Kara knows Lena will force herself to go out because she thinks it might be what Kara wants, but what she really wants right now is to stay right here with Lena and talk.

They have so much to talk about.

Right here is actually in the car, Frank insisting on driving them, even after his small health scare. They're on their way back into the city, Lena's hand tucked in her own, and Kara wants to suggest returning to Lena's penthouse and ordering takeout instead of doing anything else.

It takes her four minutes to work up to making the suggestion, and it takes Lena barely a breath to agree.

Kara wants to know what's meant to happen now. They're dating, she's sure, but there's no -

She's not a label person, she doesn't think, but she does want everyone and everyone's grandmother to know that Lena Luthor is taken. It doesn't even have to be known that it's by her, but Kara has -

She finally understands all those feelings she had whenever Lena was with anyone else. Just talking to someone else, even just standing near them, giving them attention that wasn't directed at Kara. It all makes a lot of sense now, and she's just relieved she's figured it out.

Alex is relieved, too, even though the two of them have sat down and talked about it. Brunch just consisted of a lot of teasing on Alex's behalf, ribbing Kara about the fact neither of them could quite wait to get hands on each other.

Well.

Kara suspects she has a number of very serious conversations coming her way. Probably for the rest of her life, if she intends to spend the rest of that life with Lena. Which she does, of course. More than anything.

Lena places their - astronomical - lunch order from the car, her eyes eventually landing on Kara. "Should be there by the time we arrive," she says, and Kara loves her so freaking much.

"You didn't even ask what I wanted," she says, which is moot, because Lena ordered nearly one of everything on the menu, anyway.

Lena gives her a look that tells her she knows exactly what Kara's thinking. "I'm sure you'll find something to sate you once we get home," she comments, and it's purposefully light. Easy. There's no actual suggestion in her voice, and she also doesn't seem to realise she's referred to her place as 'home.'

It's a bit scary, how they've seemed to settle into this odd sense of domesticity. It's also different, but not at all, at the same time. It doesn't feel as if they're closer than they were before Kara's secret broke them, but Kara's trying not to second guess any of her desires: to touch and hold and kiss and just look at her.

Lena's hand remains warm in her own, and Kara has never found a silence so comfortable before. Normally, she hates it: the quiet. It reminds her too much of the Phantom Zone and all that time in her life represents: a lot of nothing. Sometimes, the silence gets too much that she has to switch on the television or put on some music just to drown it out.

Now, right here, she can listen to Lena's heartbeat unrestricted; practically feel it through her fingertips.

Lena allows the silence, because she's not the kind of person who requires constant sound. Growing up, she probably spent a lot of time alone, and so she's used to her own company. Kara knows it means something that she even wants Kara near at times like this.

As predicted, their food arrives just as they do, Frank signing for it, and Kara and Lena carry it all up to Lena's penthouse. They have to try not to giggle when an older woman who lives on the fifth floor actually tells them to enjoy their party when she sees the amount of food they have. It really takes everything for Kara not to burst out laughing, and the expression on Lena's face doesn't help.

They manage to hold it in until they've crossed the threshold into Lena's penthouse, and then they're both doubling over in laughter. Objectively, it's not even that funny, but there's something about this day and this moment and this woman that makes Kara feel young and silly and just so stupid.

Lena recovers first, straightening to her full height and giving Kara a soft, amused smile. She says, "I haven't laughed like that in a long time," which nearly breaks Kara's heart all over again.

Kara makes it her vow to make Lena laugh like that every single day. She'll be the silliest person in the world, just to hear that sound again. For the rest of her life. However long that may be.

"Thank you, Kara," Lena says after a moment, which is bemusing.

"For what?"

Lena does a lady's impression of a shrug. "Many things," she says. "But, really, just thank you for being here. Today. Recently. I know I haven't been easy to be around."

Kara won't lie to her, so she doesn't offer some kind of platitude. Instead, she says, "It hasn't been easy, no," with as much truth as she can manage. "But I would have done anything to get you back. To make it right. Anything to ease the hurt."

One day, she'll have to tell Lena that she's considered many other alternatives to the way she finally told her, but it all feels moot now. Kara wouldn't call herself religious, but Rao plays a very big role in her life, and she's of the belief that everything happens just as it's meant to.

Lena was always meant to learn the truth the way she did, and they were always meant to go through all the pain to get to this point.

This point, where Kara sets the food in her hands on the coffee table and walks towards Lena with the sole purpose of touching her. Just to feel her warmth and her skin and the beating of her heart.

She can do this now.

"Can I ask you something?" Kara asks, hands reaching for Lena's hips and just resting there.

Lena nods. "Anything, Kara," she says, which might be a dangerous thing to offer.

Kara tilts her head a little to the left. "What changed?" she asks. "What happened, to get you here, with me?" Because the truth really is that Kara didn't see any way back for them. She really thought that was it - there would be no reconciliation, and she would need to learn how to live her life without Lena.

And yet, here she is.

Here they are.

Lena takes a breath, and then says, "Would you believe me if I told you it has something to do with Quinn?"

Kara definitely would.

Lena's fingers of her right hand play with the ends of Kara's ponytail. "A lot of her situation with Rachel mirrored ours in a way that made me uncomfortable," she explains. "No actual lie, and no burning betrayal, but they lost each other in a similar way, and it was - watching her actually try again, after everything, it baffled me that she could keep doing that to herself. Wasn't she afraid of the hurt? Wouldn't it be worse a second, and a third time?"

Kara suspects she knows the answer to all these questions, but she remains silent. They're rhetorical, anyway.

Lena sighs softly. "Quinn told me once that she admired my capacity for love," she says. "She explained it in a way that made it seem like something special. After everything I've been through with the Luthors, and with what it has meant to be a Luthor in recent times, she always seems so amazed that I've turned out so…" she trails off. "I hesitate to refer to myself as normal, because I'm not. I mean, I'm currently dating a superhero, but I just - " she stops, and it's so unlike her to lose her words this often.

Kara doesn't mention that, either.

"Before, I was too afraid of telling you what I want, in case I needed up losing you," Lena tells her. "And then I did, and I realise I'm not so afraid of that anymore. I can survive without you, Kara, but I don't want to. And, now that I know that, I don't mind telling you what I want anymore."

Kara's heart rate rises. "And what do you want?"

"What do you want, Kara?" she asks. "I get the feeling not many people ask you that question and actually listen."

It's a complicated thing to point out, because Kara can't mention Alex and Eliza without thinking about those moments where her own desires were disregarded in lieu of what was determined would keep her safe.

What Kara wants.

What does she want?

"I've been so worried that I wouldn't find someone who would know all of me," Kara tells her. "Dating. Finding love. It all just seemed like something I would never get to have. Not the way Alex has with Kelly, where she can be her whole self with the person she loves. All my life here on Earth, I've had to hide all these parts of myself, and it's - Rao, it's made it so difficult to have meaningful and true relationships." She doesn't really know where she's going with this, but it all still feels important to say.

The way Lena is looking at her makes her believe it.

"I want that," Kara says. "With you." She nods, convinced of her own words. "I want to keep helping people. As Supergirl, sure, but also as Kara Danvers, reporter. I want to honour my House and my name and my heritage. I want Alex to have everything she's ever wanted in this world, because she deserves all of it. I want - Lena, I just want to be happy and actually stay that way."

Lena's eyes are a little teary, and she lifts onto her toes to kiss Krone corner of Kara's mouth. "You will be," she declares, quiet like a promise. "And I will be. I have great faith in us."

Kara raises her eyebrows. "Did I miss the part where you turned into an optimist?" she asks, only slightly serious.

Lena laughs. "I'm just repeating what I've been told," she says. "Quinn will tell you she's never wrong. Everything is going to be okay."

"And you just believe that?" Kara asks, curious to know how it is that Lena could take the word of someone she didn't even know seven months ago, when Kara has been begging her to understand why she did what she did for even longer.

"I do," Lena says, and there's a sureness in her voice that hasn't always been there in the context of her personal life. "Quinn has never lied to me."

Kara can't imagine that's true. Human beings lie all the time. Even the words 'I'm fine' are considered the most common lie in the world. They do it willingly and unwittingly.

Everyone is a liar.

Lena must be able to read her disbelief, because she laughs lightly and steps away. Her hand reaches for Kara's and leads her towards the couch where their food is waiting. "She hasn't," Lena reiterates. "Though, if she does, she makes sure I know she's doing it." Her smile is fond, and Kara loves this for her: the chance to be this kind of sister. "It's cute, really, just how silly she can be about it."

Kara waits until they're seated, Lena leaning over to unpack the various containers of food. "I've lied to you," she says, and Lena's movements stall for a moment. "I've lied to you from the moment we met."

"I know."

"And you forgive me."

"I do."

"Why?"

Lena pulls her hands away from the food and takes a breath. "There are a number of reasons," she begins. "Would you like to hear them?"

Kara nods, her body held very still.

"You should know, Kara, that I've been here before," Lena says. "This isn't anything new to me, letting people in and being burned for it. It's a lesson I should have learned a long time ago, but what I think is different between you and everyone else is that - "

"What?"

"You won't ever do it again." Lena leans back, putting some space between them. "You hurt me, and I hurt you, I hurt myself, and you hurt yourself, as well, and I think there's something to be said about never wanting to feel that feeling ever again."

"What feeling?"

"Hurting you," Lena says. "It was supposed to make me feel better, but it just made me feel worse, and I don't want that for myself again. For you. For us. Can you believe that?"

It takes a moment, but Kara eventually nods.

"I'm also in love with you," Lena says, and Kara's heart goes still at the reminder. She can't foresee herself ever getting used to it. "Maybe it's stupid to forgive things like this, but I like to think it's brave of me, instead. To trust you again not to hurt me like that. To put my heart in your hands again, and make sure you're aware of it this time."

This is how it's different than last time. This, right here, Lena telling her at face value just what she means to her. No pretence. No other relationships getting in the way. No secret identities and secret projects and just secrets acting as barriers between them.

No.

Lena is in love with her, and Kara's mind is constantly blown by that truth.

"Can I ask you something else?" Kara says, and it's merely a formality.

"I meant it when I said 'anything,' Kara," she says, looking slightly amused. "What is it?"

"What are you doing for the rest of your life?"

Lena looks at her, eyes soft and kind. "I want to change the world," she says, and she's not even joking. Kara can tell just from the hard set of her jaw and the determination in her eyes. "Save millions of lives, secure fair alien rights, make sure Quinn doesn't derail her entire life for some girl, ensure my mother can't hurt anyone else, visit Liz a lot more, make sure Jess never leaves me, build a life worth living, get married, start a family." She smiles at Kara. "Become a Mom."

Kara can't resist moving closer and wrapping her arms around her, tucking Lena into her side. Her lips press against Lena's hair, eyes closing. "You will accomplish all of those things," she whispers. "I know it."

Lena relaxes against her. "How can you be so sure?" she asks.

"My love, how can you not?"


Rachel is aware of two things when she arrives at the loft, suitcase in tow and nervous smile on her face. The first is that she has a rather large hickey on her neck, and that Kurt and Santana have already arrived.

The thing is she's had every intention of divulging where she's been and what she's been doing - aggressively making out with Quinn Fabray in a bathroom stall at Grand Central Station - but all she has to do is take one look at their faces and all her words die on her lips.

Kurt looks livid, and Santana looks a potent mixture of enraged and unimpressed. Rachel's aware she should have informed them she wasn't going to be flying back with them, but all she was thinking about was Quinn and getting to Quinn and telling Quinn she loves her.

Nothing else mattered beyond that, and Rachel has wilfully not thought about anything else until right now.

Right now, with Kurt and Santana looking at her as if she's already told them she's dating Quinn Fabray. The air is already thick with tension, and Rachel is left to wonder why they even still care. Why should they? This entire year has been hell. She's been hell to be around, and it's a wonder they're still her friends. If they'll even still be after all of this.

But Rachel stands there, backpack on her shoulders and hand holding the handle of her suitcase. She's almost poised and ready to run. She could probably catch the next train to New Haven and actually spend the night with Quinn.

No.

She's here now, and this is her life.

Santana is the one who asks, "Where have you been?" with crossed arms and a tapping foot. It would be amusing if Rachel wasn't feeling so overwhelmed all of a sudden.

As difficult as things have been with Quinn, they've also been very easy. Easier than this moment right here, that's for sure. She would happily stand in front of Quinn and profess her love all over again instead of having to do this.

Because with Quinn, while sometimes an explosive teenager, there's now something about her at this age that is frighteningly calm. Rachel always knew the moment they met again would be quiet, because Quinn is a martyr in many ways, and they've both had crosses to bear for quite a few years now.

It is a surprise to all three of them when Rachel says, "In National City." It's not a lie. Technically. It just invites more scrutiny.

Their faces shift through several expressions. "What on Earth were you doing in fucking National City?" Santana asks.

Telling Quinn I'm in love with her. It would be so easy to say the words, but she's not quite prepared for the aftermath. She's standing on the wrong side of the room, you see. She needs to be on the other side, closer to her bedroom.

With a sigh, she steps inside and slides the door closes behind her. She's already tired of this entire conversation, and it hasn't even started.

"There was something I needed to do," Rachel deflects, moving through the room and right past them. "It couldn't wait."

"And you didn't think to inform us?" Kurt asks, his voice high.

It irks Rachel, the entitlement in his voice. "You don't need to know every little thing I do, Kurt," she mutters.

"I'm aware," he says, snark in his voice, "but it really would have been nice not to show up at your fathers' house to pick you up just to find you're nowhere to be found."

Okay. Rachel will concede that point, at least, because she really should have let them know she was no longer in Lima. "You're right," she says, "I should have told you I wasn't there."

"Because you were in National City," he says, and it doesn't sound as if he believes her. "Doing something."

Someone, actually.

Kurt's eyes widen, and Rachel realises belatedly that she's said the word out loud.

"Ooh, scandalous," Santana says. "Is this your illicit affair?"

Rachel's jaw clenches. "It's not some affair," she says, "and there's nothing illicit about it."

"Then why don't we know anything about it?" Kurt asks, and it's really irritating that he has a point.

"Because you would love to convince me that there's something wrong with it," Rachel says, and they're getting dangerously close to a truth Rachel really wants to be ready for.

Kurt raises his eyebrows. "Is there?"

Rachel turns to face him. "No, there isn't," she says, and she means it. "There's never been, and I hate that you and I have made it feel like wanting to be with someone who isn't Finn is some great sin, Kurt."

The fact she's brought it up at all seems to catch all three of them off guard, and Rachel won't allow herself to regret it. It has to be said, so she's said it.

Kurt's expression circles through several emotions before he settles on indignant. "I have never said anything of the sort," he says, which is true. He just implies it in a number of different ways. If she stopped to think about what Finn would really think about the fact she's dating Quinn, she wouldn't get out of bed.

No.

She's fine. She's happy. Carole has given them her blessing, and Rachel isn't going to dwell on a guilt that's dissipated in the past forty-eight hours.

It doesn't really turn into an argument, but it gets somewhere close. Because, despite it all, Rachel is right. Rachel doesn't know if Finn asked Kurt to make sure nothing ever happened between Rachel and anyone else, but that's the way it's felt for a long time.

She hasn't even mentioned Quinn's name yet.

"You just don't want me to be happy," Rachel accuses him, and it might come out of nowhere.

"You don't even know what you want," he shoots back, and it is moments away from turning ugly. "For years, all you've talked about is wanting to be with Finn, and then you weren't."

"You were one of the people against the wedding!"

"Because you were too young!"

"What do you even want from me?"

"What do you want for yourself?" he asks, and there's something there. Almost as if he's daring her to admit something he might already know. Maybe he's always known, the same way Finn always knew.

Rachel looks at him, studying his face for a moment. "I just want to be happy," she says. "Why is that so difficult for you to accept?"

Kurt's jaw clenches. "You don't know how to be happy," he says. "You're always looking for something else. Someone else. Who's to say you're not going to decide this next person isn't what you have planned for yourself?"

Well.

Rachel doesn't have plans anymore, not really. Plans that don't include Quinn, at least.

"I'm not," she insists, and this might be the point where she realises that he does know. Finn must have told him, or he just figured it out for himself. Maybe Finn figured out Quinn's feelings for her, and Kurt guessed her feelings for Quinn.

Quinn would have stood in the way of her forever ever after with Finn, but everyone else in this world would remain some kind of obstacle between her and the one person she and Kurt know she's always told herself not to want.

At this point, she can't tell if it will disappoint him to know the 'new' person in her life is actually Quinn, or if it would cause him some relief. Nobody else has to get hurt, because she's no longer looking for something or someone else.

She's finally ended up exactly where she wants to be.

It's Santana who asks, "Is this the same person you've been seeing the past few months?" There's something about her voice that tells Rachel she's already fully aware of the answer to her own question.

"Yes," Rachel says, anyway. "I - we - it's been a difficult time. A lot has happened this year, but I'm - we're trying to get it right this time around."

Santana's eyebrows rise, as if she hears the song reference Rachel unwittingly makes, but Rachel doesn't get the opportunity to unpack that before Kurt is saying, "You don't really expect us to believe you're happily in some relationship with someone we've never met, do you?"

Well.

They've already met Quinn, so no.

"What is your problem?" Rachel asks him, and she really wishes he would actually answer truthfully. She wants to know. She has to know.

Kurt lifts his chin, and oh no, here we go. "I just find it extremely uncouth that you barely waited any time at all after Finn was dead to jump into someone else's bed," he says, which isn't even the worst part. No, it's when he says, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say this is what you wanted, just to get out of all those ridiculous promises you made to each other," that the bottom seems to drop right out from beneath her.

"Kurt," Santana hisses, because even that's too far for Santana.

Kurt just glares at them both, and then turns on his heel and leaves the room without another word. The silence that follows is heavy and weighted, and Rachel can't bring herself to move.

"He didn't mean that," Santana says, playing some kind of role as mediator. What has the world come to, truly?

"He did," Rachel says, and there's a part of her that might have taken his words more to heart before this weekend. Before she managed to reveal her own dark truths to Quinn and the blonde stayed with her and assured her she wasn't actually a monster.

"Maybe," Santana allows, because she can't know what's really going through Kurt's head.

"But he's wrong," Rachel says.

"Of course, he's wrong," Santana says. "Anyone who knows you would never think anything like that."

Rachel just about manages a smile, because that's what Quinn said. "That's not the first time someone's said something like that to me," she points out.

"You have some smart people in your life."

Rachel hums, absently wondering if Santana would actually be okay with all of this. She doesn't hold a similar sense of resentment towards Quinn. Hers is rather also shrouded in pride and guilt, the lot of them able to justify their actions for any number of reasons.

"Are you?" Santana asks after a moment.

Rachel glances at her. "Am I what?"

"Happy."

It's a complicated question in a number of ways, you see. It's easy to answer yes, or even no, but that doesn't tell the full story. Maybe Santana knows it as well as Rachel does that being happy is a choice one has to make and strive for. Work for. Decide to want and actually go for it.

"I'm trying to be," is what Rachel finally decides to say, and it's the closest truth she can conjure. She is trying, and that's all Quinn wants of her. "It's all I can really do at this point," she adds, "but I do feel better than I have in a long time."

Santana studies her closely. Too closely. "You do?"

Rachel nods, and maybe Santana can tell the burden of being without Quinn no longer weighs on her. It was a visible thing; the misery of trying to stay away from her.

"This person, they're worth all of this?" she asks, gesturing at the space around them.

Another nod. "Yes."

Santana looks in the direction Kurt disappeared, a slight frown on her face. "He'll get over himself," she says. "He has no right to hold Finn and your past relationship with him against you like that. Not any more than you can against yourself."

"San." The sound of her name is a warning and a plea, because Rachel knows she won't be able to deny anything if Santana gets too close. She must know. If anything, Rachel has been more heartbroken over her almost with Quinn than her break with Finn.

Maybe it is easier to let her figure it out herself than have to tell her.

Her smile is small, and so foreign. "I know I act as if I don't care about you, and I'll deny it 'til my last breath, but you haven't seemed happy in a long, long time," she says. "Even before Finn." She pauses. "Since Quinn."

Rachel audibly swallows because, if anyone is going to figure it out, Santana will. "San."

She gives Rachel a very particular look, and then very quietly asks, "Is she - how is she?"

Oh.

See, now, Rachel could lie. She could pretend not to know what Santana is talking about. Who she's talking about. It wouldn't be easy, but Santana would let herself believe the words and Rachel would just buy herself some time.

No.

She's done with the lies.

She thinks.

In this moment, Santana is going to learn the truth. "She's doing better," she finally says, and the verbal confirmation makes Santana's breath catch. "She's been through quite a few changes this year, and I definitely haven't helped with any of it."

"Neither have I," Santana murmurs. Clears her throat. "You saw her?"

Rachel nods. "Just a half hour ago, actually," she says. "She's on her way back to New Haven right now."

"And she's okay?"

"As much as she can be," Rachel says, not willing to sugarcoat the fact that Quinn is still affected by the vitriol their supposed friends sent her way for a situation that couldn't be helped.

"And the two of you are - you're, you know - "

"Together?"

Santana nods, looking slightly uncomfortable.

"We are," Rachel confirms, and it feels so good to be able to say the words. To have them be true and not feel any shame. "Dating. The whole nine yards. Girlfriends and everything."

Santana stares at her. "And you just forgave her?"

Rachel shakes her head. "There was never anything to forgive," she says, and that's something she learned the hard way. If anyone was going to do the forgiving, it was going to be Quinn. "She has her own reasons for not being there."

"What could those possibly be?"

Rachel won't answer that question. If Santana is meant to know, then Quinn will have to tell her on her own terms. "San."

Santana looks away. "I don't like this," she says. "I don't - this isn't - how can you just - " she stops, huffs. "You called him the love of your life."

"Maybe he was," Rachel allows, because she can't just forget that there was a part of her that did want to spend the rest of her life with Finn at one point. It's not something she and Quinn are going to hide from anymore. It happened. It's a part of their history. "Maybe Quinn is. I don't think I've lived enough life to be able to declare those words about any one person with any kind of certainty."

"Brittany's the love of my life," Santana says. "That's never been in doubt."

It's a low blow, Rachel knows, but she still says, "Then, why aren't you together right now?"

Santana looks away, jaw clenching.

"Finn is dead," she says. "And I can't tell you how things would have played out if he weren't, but the reality is that he is, and I don't - I can't stand not being with her anymore. I don't even care what it looks like right now. I just - God, how can you stand it?"

Santana still hasn't looked back at her, gaze stubbornly away. "It's Quinn," is her own argument.

"That's right," Rachel says. "It is Quinn."

"She's just going to break your heart," Santana says, and she's really such a contradiction at this point. Rachel can't tell if she's accepting or not; if she wants to be, but is actively stopping herself.

Because it is Quinn, and Rachel knows Santana has missed her, too.

"Maybe," Rachel allows, because she doesn't know what's going to happen any more than anyone else does. "But I trust her to do everything in her power not to," she adds, which feels like the crux of why they'll work as well as they will.

Santana shakes her head. "Don't come crying to me when she ends up proving you wrong," she says, and then she's also walking away.

In the grand scheme of things, it really could have gone a lot worse. She knows she still has many a conversation to come, but this feels like enough for one day. She needs a shower and she needs to unpack, just to recharge for the next round with Kurt.

For the moment Finn's stepbrother learns that Rachel is dating her former tormentor and Finn's ex-girlfriend.

It's exhausting just thinking about it, but she knows it has to be done. For now, though, she focuses on sorting her laundry, texting Quinn while she's on the train, and picking out some clothes for her post-shower.

As ridiculous as it sounds, she feels safest within the confines of her room, and she goes out only when necessary. To shower and grab some food, before she returns to her room and tries not to feel overwhelmed by the weekend she's just had or the coming weeks she's about to have.

Rachel is lying on her bed when Quinn calls, the first time she's done such a thing in over a year. "Hey, you," she answers, the phone pressed to her ear. Her aim is to make sure Quinn doesn't hear any of the turmoil in her voice, but that's a silly desire, because Quinn immediately picks up on it.

"It didn't go well, did it?" Quinn says, and her voice is steady. Not accusing and not even disappointed. Almost as if it was expected, which is was.

"Not really," Rachel tells her, which is the truth, but barely half of it. "I miss you," she says, which is the entire truth. "And I love you."

Quinn is quiet for a moment. "You didn't tell them it's me, did you?" she asks, and it is constantly amazing that she could even pick up on it.

"Santana figured it out herself," Rachel tells her. "Kurt had already stormed out of the room by then, but I don't think she'll tell him."

"Oh."

Rachel sighs, rolling onto her side and curling her body. "I'm going to talk to him again," she says. "I just - I needed a shower and to unpack. I also needed to recharge a little. It's not a simple conversation to have with him. He's very stubborn."

Quinn makes a point of ignoring all of that when she asks, "How did Santana take it, then?"

Rachel almost smiles, because she knows Quinn doesn't really care about what Kurt thinks. Those two have had a complicated relationship in the past, but Quinn's never told her their history. "I don't actually know," she says. "She's almost as difficult to figure out as you are."

"What are you talking about?" Quinn murmurs, "I'm an open book."

Rachel giggles softly, nuzzling into her own pillow and wishing she were currently with Quinn. "Sure you are," she agrees, and then sighs. "You arrived safely?"

"Yip," she says. "Got in a few minutes ago. Amy's already on my case about details of the trip, but I had to call you and Lena first, so that's bought me some time."

"You're going to tell her about us?"

"Yes."

Rachel can't help her smile. "Because we're an 'us.'"

"Indeed we are," Quinn says. "At least, this way, she'll stop trying to set me up with all her lesbian friends."

"Quinn."

She laughs. "Hey," she says, "I wasn't officially off the market until this weekend, you know?"

Oh, Rachel is very aware, thank you very much.

"And, if you can get over my broodiness, I'm a catch," Quinn jokes, and it's a wonder how this is the same person who went through a phase when she died her hair pink and dressed exclusively in leather and denim during their senior year of high school.

"Your broodiness is my favourite part about you," Rachel points out.

"I thought your favourite thing about me was that thing I do with my - "

"Oh, my God."

Quinn's laughter is a glorious, beautiful thing. "That's what you said last night."

"In my defence, you really shouldn't take what I say in post-coital bliss at face value," she says.

"Hmm, so when you told me you love me," Quinn says, voice steady and a little teasing.

"I love you," Rachel says. "I will tell you whenever you need to hear it. I'll tell you whenever I want to say it. I'll tell you every single day."

Quinn lets out a breath. "It's worth it, right?" she asks. "All of this? Me? It's worth it?"

It's not the first time she's been asked something like this, and it probably won't be the last. "Do you know what my actual favourite thing about you is?" she returns, instead of answering Quinn's legitimate worries.

"What?"

"No part of me has to change when I'm with you," she says. "I'm exactly the person I am, whom you seem to want to be with, and I just - maybe that's a selfish way to look at all of this, but I'm not willing to let that go, if you're not."

"I'm not," Quinn assures her.

"Good."

"Great." She chuckles lightly. "Are you sure your favourite thing isn't actually that thing I do with my - "

"Quinn, oh my God, shut up."

She laughs, perfect and golden. "Hey, Rach?"

Rachel wouldn't even dream of trying to hold onto her irritation. "What?"

"I love you, too," she says, "just in case you needed to hear it, as well." She hums. "Actually, no, just because I wanted to say it."

Chapter Text

xii. the sun bursts, clouds break (this is life in colour)

The call is unexpected.

Kara is sitting at her desk, fingers tapping at a human pace on her keyboard, and the sight of her phone vibrating is a welcome but unexpected distraction. She glances over her shoulder to make sure she hasn't disturbed anyone, and then moves to answer.

One good thing about the work they do is that any and every call could be a potential lead or even a source, so daytime calls are accepted as normal, and it's definitely one perk to her current job.

Though, it's even more unexpected that she doesn't quite recognise the number calling her. Her actual number isn't really known to many, given the fact Alex would have a conniption if someone figured out they could track her and actually find Supergirl.

Still, Kara answers with a careful, "Hello, Kara speaking."

"Hey, Kara," a voice says, easy and friendly. Kara knows this voice; she's sure of it. "It's Quinn."

Oh.

Kara instantly relaxes. "Hey," she says, smiling despite her confusion. "How are you doing?"

"I'm good," she says. "You?"

"A little surprised to hear from you this way, but I'm surviving the daily grind," she says, and hopes it doesn't sound as if she's trying too hard.

"Oh, yeah, sorry," Quinn says, "I got your number from Lena; I hope it's okay that I've called."

"It's perfectly fine, Quinn," she says. "Is everything okay?"

The fact Quinn hesitates has Kara on alert immediately. She's already saving her documents and getting ready to log out of her work account. But then Quinn says, "Nothing's actually wrong," with a steady voice. "I just - I guess I need some advice."

Kara's rising panic dissipates. "From me?"

"Yeah."

Kara doesn't know what she could probably help Quinn with, but she's definitely willing to try. "Is it urgent?" she asks.

"Um. No."

"I can come to New Haven tonight," Kara informs her. "We can have a face-to-face conversation, if you want. It might be easier."

"Really?" she says, and Kara gets it now whenever Lena is surprised when Quinn actually sounds as young as she is.

"If you want."

"What? Yeah, that'd be great," she says. "Um. This is my number, so just let me know when you're around, okay? We can get something to eat. There are some great places not too far from campus."

"Now you're speaking my language," Kara says, which gets a laugh out of Quinn, and the unexpected sound reminds her of Lena in a way she's still getting used to.

Once their plans are finalised, Kara is left to wonder what Quinn could possibly need advice about. Kara doesn't quite feel qualified enough to dole out words of wisdom, and she can't help but bring it up to Lena when she takes lunch to her office just an hour later.

Lena, thankfully, doesn't look surprised by the revelation. "She mentioned she might call you, yes."

"Do you know what it's about?" Kara presses, wanting to be prepared for any and all eventualities. The last thing she wants is to mess things up with her girlfriend's little sister.

Lena shakes her head. "Not really," she says, "though I suspect it must have something to do with Rachel."

Kara blinks. "Rachel?"

Lena shrugs, gently piercing a piece of lettuce in her salad with her fork. "I think Quinn doesn't know how to talk to me about her relationship, because I still haven't quite decided if Rachel is good for her or not."

Kara nods as if she understands, but they must both know there's more to it. "Are you going to make a decision?" she asks, because she knows what it's like to date someone Alex hasn't approved of.

In fact, if she and Lena started dating as soon as they met, Kara would have had a bigger fight on her hands to get Alex to see Lena as a person and not just her surname.

Hmm.

Maybe that's what Quinn wants to talk about.

Lena sighs. "I know Rachel can make Quinn happy, but I also know she can make her miserable," she says. "I'm not likely to forget that."

Kara stops eating, her gaze meeting Lena's. "I can make you happy," she says, "but I've also made you miserable."

"I'm not likely to forget that, either," Lena says. "Even if I could, I doubt I would want to. I think everything we've already been through makes what we're trying to build right now as important as it is."

"But why would you hold it over her, and not over me?" Kara asks, and she's convinced she already knows the answer. She's a sister, too.

"Hurting me, and hurting Quinn are two very different things," Lena says, anyway. "Alex will never forget what I've done to you, even if you will."

Kara can't even dispute that statement, because Alex said that exact thing when the two of them were finally able to have a Sister Night and actually talk about Kara's new relationship. It was a heavy conversation, despite the episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine playing on Kara's television.

The last thing Alex wants is for Kara to get hurt again. Alex's relationship with Lena is separate to Kara's, in the fact that she can still be the woman's friend while not forgetting that there were recent months of misery, heartbreak and visible turmoil for all of them - some more than others.

Kara more than others.

Alex said, "I can't just forget that she said words to you that made you want to leave behind parts of your identity."

Which, yeah.

She and Lena definitely still need to talk about that. Kara is used to the separation, the differences between Supergirl and Kara Danvers making it difficult to suspect she's one of them when she's dressed as the other. But there was just something about having Lena look at her as if -

As if Kara Danvers was erased from existence the moment she learned about Supergirl. As if every interaction she had with Kara Danvers suddenly disappeared from the timeline, no longer a part of their history.

As if she were nothing and nobody.

"Kara?"

The sound of Lena's voice snaps her out of her thoughts, and she focuses on Lena's face. "Sorry," she says, "just thinking."

"Did I say something wrong?" Lena asks. "I just - I don't think we can have a good, solid future if we completely disregard our past. Do you not agree with me?"

"What?"

Lena studies her for a moment. "Darling, what are you thinking about right now?"

"Do you still hate Supergirl?"

The question is just as unexpected for Lena as it is for Kara, just based on the expression on her face, but she does take a moment to think before she responds.

The one thing Kara appreciates is that Lena doesn't deny she's felt the emotion for her counterpart. That would just be a bald-faced lie, and Kara knows they're trying not to do that anymore.

"No, I don't," Lena finally says. "I think, if I ever did, they were in bursts wrapped up in my feelings, all as a response to my interactions with her." To think about it now, some of their encounters were heated, even if Kara has always believed in Lena's inherent goodness.

"We haven't interacted as a Super and a Luthor since we've started dating," Kara points out, and she is terrified of what that first meeting will be like. Will Lena take one look at her in the suit and change her mind? Will she see her and realise this isn't actually what she wants?

Lena gives her a look. "Would you like to get changed, and then the two of us can resume our lunch?" she offers, and her tone isn't a challenge. It's a kindness.

"Would that be weird?"

"Darling, no," Lena says. "It might me a good idea, having that moment in private, rather than in front of goodness knows how many people. It might take off the pressure, and ease our minds."

"You mean mine," she grumbles.

Lena's smile is indulgent. "Kara?"

"Hmm?"

"Go and get changed," she says. "I'd like to have lunch with National City's superhero now, thank you."

Kara does as she's told.


Kurt finds out in perhaps the worst way.

Well, the worst way that doesn't involve either of them being naked, but he still finds out, and the kicker really is that Rachel isn't the one to tell him.

Carole is.

It's not really her fault. Rachel and Quinn didn't make it clear to her just how close to their chests they've been keeping their relationship, and it all comes to a head barely two weeks after the end of their Spring Break. She just hasn't known how to bring it up when they can barely get through a single civil conversation - and that's before he knew whom she's been dating.

It's just that Rachel has tried to keep the peace in the loft, but it's been difficult when Santana is newly abrasive, Kurt is cutting, and Quinn isn't even in New York City.

She talks to Brody, instead, who sits across from her at Callbacks and listens to her ramble about Quinn and Quinn's eyes and Quinn's mouth and Quinn's brain and Quinn's general person.

His smile is slightly amused, but Rachel can tell he meant it when he told her he just wanted her to reach for her own happiness, and now she has.

But then Kurt finds out, and he storms into her bedroom and says every nasty thing she's sure he's always wanted to say. It's ugly and hurtful, and he uses Finn against her in the worst ways; calls her ungrateful and selfish and ruthless and a bitch and a diva. She doesn't even know where the anger is coming from - or this is just him still in mourning - but she suddenly knows there is no way they can come back from this.

Especially when he starts talking about Quinn.

It's one thing to spew his vitriol about her - she's actually standing here and she can take it - but Quinn is off limits, and Rachel really should have been firmer about this a long time ago. Quinn might have been an awful teenager at times, but she doesn't deserve all this misplaced hate when Rachel can't recall Quinn ever actually interacting with Kurt on any kind of deeper level.

"Leave her out of this," Rachel snaps at him, and his expression shifts. Angers further. He opens his mouth, but Rachel isn't going to hear a second more. "Say what you want about me, but don't you dare drag her into whatever problem you seem to have with my being happy with someone who isn't Finn."

Kurt's jaw clenches. "She's just going to hurt you," he says, as if everything he's saying is just for her own good. Some way to protect her from an inevitable hurt, which is just -

The hypocrite.

Maybe she will get hurt. Maybe she won't. Rachel doesn't even care. It feels too good just being with her, and Rachel is probably just selfish enough that nothing else matters in this moment. Nobody else. Dead or alive.

And then it all comes back to this: "What would Finn think?"

Before his death, she knows he would have been livid. Angered beyond comprehension. Even before he made her promise never to be with Quinn, she knows this development would have hurt him. It would have been ugly. Well, uglier than it is right now, and that's saying something.

"All I know is he would want me to be happy," Rachel decides, and she believes that much.

"Not if it's with her."

"Well, he's not here, is he?" Rachel says, and she won't let Kurt derail all the progress she's made since Carole said the words she needed to hear. "He doesn't get a say anymore and, frankly, neither do you."

Kurt glares at her, but Rachel needs to know. She has to hear him say whatever she knows he needs to say, so they can finally get to the crux of all this animosity. If Quinn won't tell her, then maybe Kurt finally will.

"What do you have against her, anyway?" Rachel asks. "Why do you hate her so much?"

"I don't hate her," he deflects, which is a lie. "I just hate that she's so okay with playing the victim card when we all know she's just selfish and heartless. She thinks going through the wringer is having a baby at sixteen and having a bad dye job." He scoffs. "Talk to me when she goes through something that makes the world stop loving her."

It is -

God.

It's worse than Rachel thought.

"Let me get this straight," Rachel says, and she really doesn't think too much about the play of her own words because she's just so horrified right now. "You hate her because, according to you, she hasn't suffered enough?"

Kurt looks thrown, as if having it put that way makes it -

Honestly, it's as horrible as it sounds.

"Wow."

Kurt looks down.

"You hate her because she doesn't broadcast all she's been through, you mean," she says. "Do you even realise what you sound like?"

Kurt opens his mouth, but she's had enough.

"No," she snaps. "Whatever she has and hasn't been through shouldn't matter, and it isn't even any of your business anyway. I'm sorry if you think your life has been so hard, Kurt, but you don't get to take it out on her just because you feel like it. You don't know half the things she's been through and, frankly, I don't think you'd care, even if you did." She shakes her head. "She owes you nothing, and I don't want to hear another ill word spoken about the person I love, do you hear me?"

That gives him pause. "You actually love her?"

"Yes." She's so in love with her that she can barely see past her. "Yes, I do," she declares. "But you've known that for a while, haven't you?"

"And, every day, I'm relieved Finn never did," Kurt says, and Rachel hates him. It's this sudden, heavy, burst of a feeling, and she just knows they're never going to be okay again.

That's fine.

It is.

She doesn't want to be around anyone who could say all these horrible things about her girlfriend, anyway. When she first moved to New York, he was really all she had. Moving in with him was an easy decision, but she's in a place now where she knows she's outgrown him. She's outgrown herself.

She has people, now. Sure, she hasn't been the best person to be around for some time, lost in her own never-ending misery, but she's finally figured it out. She has Brody, and she has her other classmates. Her cast mates, who are slowly becoming her friends.

She has Quinn.

She's going to be just fine.

Rachel lifts her chin, expression calm and defiant. "Me too," she concludes, her words more true than anything else. She is relieved, and she gets the feeling Carole, Quinn and Santana all are, too.

And then she tells him to get out of her room. Her voice is firm, offering no space for further argument, and then he's gone.

Rachel is gone just a minute later, grabbing her coat and bag, and already knowing exactly where she's going. She already has her renewed Metro Pass, a gift Quinn gave her for the second time to much protest, but Quinn is convinced it'll save them both money in the long run.

Really, Quinn was more baffled by how she afforded it before, seeing as she made the trip so often. Let it just be known that every tip she ever made at the Diner went to funding those tickets.

Now, she gets to see Quinn whenever she wants, without having to worry about how much it costs. Now, all they really have to worry about is time. It's a Thursday, and Rachel already knows Quinn's schedule, so she won't be in class. That doesn't mean she won't be busy, but Rachel doesn't actually need Quinn to drop everything for her.

She's proven to herself that merely the act of going to New Haven can have the right kind of effect on her.

Still, she calls Quinn from the train, and the blonde is there to meet her at the station with a proud smile and her arms ready to wrap around her. Rachel can't stay very long, because she has rehearsals in the evening, but Quinn takes hold of her hand and leads her to a quaint coffee shop within the station.

Rachel doesn't mention it's the same one she visited when she was still in crisis.

"So, they both know," Quinn says some minutes later, fiddling with the handle of her coffee cup.

"Yeah."

"Carole called earlier," she says. "Before you. Said she might have asked him how he was handling the news about us, given his thoughts over Spring Break, and then - well - "

"Well."

Quinn manages a smile. "Are you okay?"

Rachel slides her foot along the floor until it's pressed against Quinn's. "Brody suggested I see one of NYADA's therapists the other day," she says. "As if I haven't spent the last seven years in therapy, already." She shrugs. "Though, perhaps it hasn't worked."

"Look at it this way," Quinn says, "how much more of a mess would we be if we weren't in therapy?"

"You've started again?" Rachel asks, surprised, because Quinn hasn't mentioned it.

"First session was yesterday," Quinn says. "I don't know why I ever really stopped. I guess you kind of find it unnecessary when you're not considered as being in crisis, but then I was in crisis, and I rather hung onto Lena than, you know, seeking professional help."

"You feel safe with her."

"Yeah." She sips some of her coffee. "I feel safe with you, too."

Rachel reaches for her hand, entangling their fingers. "I think I'm going to move out," she says, and Quinn tightens her grip. "One of my cast mates is looking for another roommate, and I think it'll work out better in the long run. It's about the same price, closer to campus, and - " she pauses. Meets Quinn's gaze. "And it's somewhere you'll be able to visit and not be uncomfortable."

"Rachel, please don't do something like this for me," Quinn says, and Rachel hates how much she's convinced she doesn't deserve these things.

"If anything, I'm doing it for me," Rachel informs her, which isn't exactly untrue. "I want you to be able to visit me, and I also don't want to remain living with someone who - "

Quinn leans forward. "Who what?"

Rachel shakes her head. She's not quite ready to divulge every part of her fight with Kurt, but she will. "I'll tell you another time," she assures, and Quinn accepts it. "I just don't want to keep living with them."

"Okay."

"Okay."

"And these potential new roommates are good people?"

Rachel smiles at her, opting not to take her hand back and rather using her free one to stir her tea and take her first sip. "They're theatre people," she says. "They seem to get me, which is difficult to find."

"And this Sean guy?"

Rachel chuckles, finding Quinn's pout rather adorable. They've had a few conversations about her musical rehearsals, and most of them consist of Rachel complaining about her costar, Sean Champion. "You know you have nothing to worry about," she says. "I don't actually think he's interested in me beyond the idea of me."

"I still don't like it."

"I know."

"As long as you know."

"This is going to be my job, you know," Rachel points out. "Acting beside male leads, probably for the foreseeable future."

"I'm aware," Quinn says, and she sounds very calm about it. "And I both understand and accept that, but is it so odd that I'm uncomfortable with a costar who doesn't seem to respect the fact you're actually taken?"

"I love you."

"I know."

"As long as you know."

Quinn rolls her eyes. "Whatever you need from me, just say, okay?" she says, voice more serious. "I'm not as much of a mind reader as people like to think I am."

Rachel squeezes her hand again. "When you next come to New York, we should get a meal with Brody, okay? I think - he's been a good friend to me, and I'd like you to know him."

She's apologised to him, too. Not for ending things, but for other things. He's apologised as well, because she deserved to know that the person she was sleeping with was sleeping with other people who weren't just Cassandra July.

"Okay."

"That easy, hmm?"

Quinn winks at her. "If you want me, all you have to do is say so."

"Definitely one of the reasons I want to move out," Rachel tells her, "I want to be able to sleep with you in my own bed."

Quinn's expression softens considerably, and she leans forward as she brings Rachel's hand up to her mouth, placing the gentlest kiss to the back of it. "I don't want things to be any more difficult for you."

Rachel knew this would happen. It is a wonder how anyone could think this strange creature could be selfish and heartless. She might pretend to be, but anyone paying attention can tell it's all just an act. "Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"You make things easier," she says, and there's this expression on Quinn's face that Rachel hasn't ever seen before.

When she figures it out, her breath catches because, dear God, Quinn actually believes her.


"I never told you this," Lena starts, and Kara tries not to feel self-conscious of the way Lena is looking at her; "but the suit really does make you look majestic."

Kara looks down at herself, crinkle in her brow. "Because of the pants?" she asks.

Lena smiles. "Not just the pants," she says. "Just - there's this air about you when you're in the suit. Something not of this world. Something almost regal."

Kara keeps her eyes on Lena's face. "The same thing happens when you put on your armour," she says.

Lena looks confused for a moment, and then she nods. "My clothes are there to maintain some kind of distance," she says. "Makes me appear unapproachable and untouchable."

"And unfairly gorgeous."

Lena chuckles. "You have fantasies about my pantsuits, don't you?"

"Yes."

If Lena expected a serious answer, she doesn't show it. Lena in a suit is - well -

Kara is perhaps more human than anyone thinks.

Lena glances at the watch on her wrist before she seems to make a decision, and Kara has little time to question her before Lena Luthor is climbing into her lap and straddling her thighs.

Lena's fingers slide into her hair, skirt already hiked up, and Kara loses her breath. "You have fifteen minutes," she murmurs against her lips, and Kara has even less time to prepare before Lena is kissing her.

Fifteen minutes isn't nearly enough time, but Lena has a meeting she can't miss, and Kara is an overachiever. It takes twelve minutes in the end, Lena breathlessly saying her name right into her ear as she comes, and Kara feeling particularly chuffed with herself because her hand is still -

There's a knock at the door, and they both freeze. Jess' voice comes through the door, informing Lena of her upcoming meeting, and Lena practically sags against her as she calls out an okay to Jess.

"I should also get back to work," Kara tells her when Lena doesn't move. "I can drop by tonight."

"Ssh."

Kara chuckles, tucking some hair behind Lena's ear and softly kissing her cheek. "Lena?"

"Hmm?"

"I love you."

Lena lifts her head, eyes just slightly unfocused. "Tell me something I don't know," she says, voice serious.

Kara blinks, listens to the outside world and says, "The people you're meeting with are already here."

Lena groans, presses a last kiss to her lips, and then reluctantly gets to her feet. She's unstable for a moment, hands on Kara's shoulders, but it's remarkable how efficiently she manages to compose herself.

Kara speeds through changing into her reporter getup, and then they're parting ways with a gentle kiss and a promise to see each other later. After Kara has talked to Quinn and hopefully managed to help with whatever seems to be bothering the younger blonde.

Now, Kara wouldn't necessarily call herself nervous, but there is added pressure to give solid advice that wouldn't be there if Quinn weren't Lena's sister. It's a truth Kara won't hide from, even if it's easier to think of her as just another person in Lena's life.

Well. That alone would make her important.

As soon as she's clocked out of work, she texts Quinn she's about to leave, and then takes to the sky. She does a quick patrol of National City, just making sure nothing too untoward has occurred, and then she's shooting across the country. At this point, she can just follow the sound of Quinn's heartbeat, finding her easily among a group of students in what appears to be a library.

She texts again once she's landed, feeling slightly out of place among students milling about. She knows she could fit in, aesthetically, but the idea of appearing like a student is odd.

She graduated five years ago, thank you very much.

Quinn eventually emerges from a building, her eyes casting around until they land on Kara. She smiles, skips down some stairs and says, "I totally timed you, and you went a lot slower than I thought."

Kara just shakes her head, visibly amused. "Hello to you, too," she sing-songs.

Quinn's smile merely widens. "Hi, Kara."

"You look well."

"Do I?" Her eyebrows rise in question, almost a challenge. "Because I haven't actually slept. Like, at all."

"An all-nighter?"

"I had a paper due, and Rachel stopped by yesterday in a bit of a crisis." Her expression shifts, grows sombre. "So, have you had dinner yet?"

Kara doesn't point out that it's barely past five o'clock in National City. Instead, she says, "I could eat," which is how she finds herself sitting across from Quinn at a diner-type restaurant, milkshakes in front of them both and waiting on their cheeseburgers.

Quinn doesn't appear inclined to bring up the reason they're actually here, but Kara decides it's best to let her get to it when she's ready. That's usually how it goes with Lena, and the two of them are rather similar that way.

Quinn waits until Kara has finished her first milkshake and ordered a second to lean forward and say, "I don't know if Lena told you, but I actually wrote this piece one of my lecturers suggested I submit to this writing competition, and I - um, I kind of won."

Okay.

Definitely not what Kara was expecting to hear from her.

Kara clears her throat. "That's amazing, Quinn," she says. "Congratulations."

Quinn ducks her head for a moment, mumbling a thank you. When she looks up again, she's a bit more composed. "I didn't actually read about what I would win if I did," she says. "I just - it wasn't meant to be a big deal, but the piece I wrote, it's - well, it's a piece about my daughter."

Kara blinks. "Your daughter?"

Quinn nods, small smile on her face. "I gave birth to her when I was sixteen," she explains. "She was adopted by Rachel's biological mother."

Wow.

That's just -

Wow.

Quinn seems amused by her reaction, and they momentarily pause when their server brings them their food and Kara's second milkshake. She's quiet as she cuts her burger in half and makes sure her sweet potato fries aren't touching her small salad.

It's an odd quirk, but Kara is interested in learning things about her.

Quinn has already taken a bite of her burger when she says, "I just thought I would get some kind of monetary award and some mentoring, but they - well, they actually want to publish the piece in their next magazine, and I also managed to secure a summer internship with them, which was unexpected, and there's this writer who thinks I could get a job with them if I actually wanted it."

When it clicks, Kara feels a little silly. Quinn doesn't want relationship advice, at all; she wants career advice.

Kara nods, because she's been listening. "I'm unsure what's actually bothering you," she says. "This sounds like a wonderful opportunity."

Quinn looks away, her expression troubled, and Kara realises there's a lot more to it.

"Do you actually want it?"

Quinn takes a breath. "I didn't give it much thought, you know? My major, my actual career beyond college. I just wanted to get out of Ohio, and I managed to do that, but now - "

Kara gets it, in a way. She's struggled with what she wants to do, as well. Even before Cat Grant left. That career displacement is the reason she even ended up as the woman's personal assistant. Sometimes, still, she's not sure she's found her place, but she's not desperate for it anymore.

"I don't know if I want to be a writer," Quinn says. "Or, I mean, I didn't know that could be an option for me until it was put in front of me."

"But do you actually want it?"

"I'm doing a Minor in Drama, did you know that?" Quinn says. "At some point, I thought I also wanted to perform, but now I'm just - "

"You're just?"

"I'm just so tired of pretending." Her expression flashes with pain for a moment, but then it's gone. "It's exhausting, and I don't think I want to make a career out of it."

"So you do want to be a writer?"

"Kara?"

"Hmm?"

"The reason I really wanted to talk to you is because the internship is actually with CatCo," she says. "In National City."

Too many truths are being dropped into her lap right now. "And Lena doesn't know?"

Quinn shakes her head. "Neither does Rachel," she says, and winces. "National City is far from New York, and about as far from Ohio, as well. We're already in this long-distance thing, and I don't know - " she stops, eyes uncertain. "Would Lena even want me around for the entire summer?"

Kara almost bursts out laughing, but Quinn still looks a little lost. It's amazing that she could even think Lena wouldn't jump at the opportunity to have her sister close, but Kara reasons that has little to do with Lena and more to do with Quinn herself.

"Wait," Quinn says, "would you even want me around?"

Kara's amusement fades to nothing. "Quinn, you're one of the only people in this world who makes Lena feel as if she's more than just her surname," she says. "More than just her past. Why wouldn't either of us want you around?"

"Probably because I intend to interrupt intimate moments as much as possible," Quinn says, clearly deflecting, and Kara allows it for a moment.

"To be honest, Quinn, I think it would make her very happy to have you near, but this is something you have to decide for yourself," Kara says. "I think, if your piece was chosen, then it was chosen for a reason, and I'm convinced that you could make a real go at it, if you wanted."

"You want to read it, don't you?"

"Desperately."

Quinn laughs. "All you had to do is ask," she says. "I can send you a copy. You might even have to check it over, for all I know."

"Wait, does this mean we could end up working together?" Kara asks, and she shouldn't be as excited by the prospect as she is.

"I don't know. Maybe. I guess it'll depend on what the internship really entails."

"I'm going to make sure we work together," Kara declares. "We'll be unstoppable."

Quinn raises her eyebrows. "You do realise I'm not actually a superhero, right?"

"I'm just a reporter, Quinn."

"Sure."

Kara rolls her eyes behind her glasses, and then the two of them settle into comfortable silence as they eat. Usually, Kara would want to fill the silence with her own voice, but Quinn is -

She's very still. Calm in a way that's a lot like Lena, but not like herself or Alex. It makes Kara wonder, because there must be reasons for her stillness.

The same way there are reasons for Lena's.

Kara can't handle silence. She can't stand not moving. It's probably a byproduct of her time in the Phantom Zone, but it's not something she would choose. Alex is - well, she's had an eye watching everything and everyone for a long time. She's also twitchy at times, a past of uncontrolled alcohol consumption under her belt, and she and Kara wouldn't choose to sit in the quiet together.

It's curious.

"Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

"I know I already met her, but can you tell me what Rachel is like," Kara says, and the smile that blooms on Quinn's face is almost too overwhelming to witness.

"What would you like to know?"

Kara's burning question at the moment is, "Is she content to sit still?"

Quinn looks momentarily confused, but then she smiles and shakes her head. "Not usually," she says. "She's definitely a busy body, always has to be doing something - usually related to music. She's never quite been able to be static."

"And that doesn't bother you?"

Quinn gives her a look, as if she knows this isn't really about her and Rachel, and more about Lena and Kara. "No," she says. "I think, what makes us work is the fact we're not alike that way. She respects my need for calm, and I kind of - I find that side of her endearing. In small doses." She laughs. "No, I'm kidding. I just - when you're with the right person, you learn to make it work. I love the parts of her that are so different to me. It's what attracts me to her."

"And you don't worry all that will cause conflict?" Kara asks, because her and Lena's previous conflict was rather exclusively related to Kara's big secret. Now, well, there are all these other things they might end up nitpicking at as they keep learning about each other.

"Maybe," Quinn allows. "But the people we're with are as perfect for us as they can be, Kara. Relationships are hard work sometimes, but one of the things I've learned in my many, many years on Earth is that if she's interested in all my weird little quirks enough to give me the attention I deserve, then she's the one for me."

Kara blinks. "What do you mean?"

"I used to watch my parents, sometimes," she says. "They weren't all that great when I was younger, you know, more worried that we appeared to be a perfect family without actually trying to be a family. But, yeah, I would watch them, and I would always see that my mother would try to talk to him about the new show she was watching or the garden she was cultivating in the backyard, and he just - he was just never interested in anything she was.

"Which is fine, you know, because you don't actually have to have the same interests, but I just - I told myself I was going to end up with someone who would at least listen to me. Someone who wouldn't dismiss my interests just because they weren't their own. Someone who would try to share that moment with me; who would love me enough that whatever I was going on about wouldn't annoy or bother them." She breathes out. "And I seem to have found that. So have you."

Kara thinks Quantum Entanglement, and she realises that Quinn is right. She does have that in Lena. Even before they imploded, she's had that in Lena, and Lena has that in her. It's not just going to go away.

"I thought I was supposed to be helping you," Kara says, a little embarrassed at how transparent she's been.

"You are," Quinn insists. "Thank you, you know? Not just for coming, but for being someone I could call."

"You're welcome, Quinn," she says. "You're Lena's people, which makes you my people."

Quinn shakes her head. "We're lucky to have you."

Kara shakes her own head, ready to counter that she's the lucky one, but it's unnecessary. Quinn must be able to see it all over her face already.


When the call comes, Quinn is already passed out beside her and snoring softly. She claims she doesn't, but Rachel knows better. She's choosing to find it cute, because it is.

But the call arrives, and Rachel has to roll to the edge of her bed and dig through her discarded jeans to find the ringing device. Preferably before Quinn wakes from the offensive sound.

It's not a number she recognises, but it's unlikely someone would randomly be calling her at this time of night, so she answers with a garbled, "Hello."

"Rachel?"

She's immediately alert, blinking away her own drowsiness. "Lena?"

"Hi," she says. "Sorry to call so late. It's just that I've been trying to get a hold of Quinn, but she doesn't seem to be answering, and I - " she stops quite suddenly, her voice sounding a little strangled.

Rachel sits up, shifting her body until her legs are hanging off the edge of her bed. "She's here," she says. "Would you like me to get her?"

"She's asleep, isn't she?"

"I'm sure she won't mind if I wake her," Rachel says, and they both know it's true. She would probably be more angry if they didn't.

"No, that won't be necessary," Lena says, but she's obviously reluctant.

Rachel takes a breath. "Is - um, is everything okay?"

Lena is quiet for a long moment, and Rachel wonders if she's actually hung up. But then she says, "I don't think I really thought about what it would mean to date an actual superhero."

Oh.

Rachel stiffens.

Something must have happened to Kara.

"Is she okay?" Rachel asks.

Lena sighs. "Physically, she's fine," she says, "but there's a lot that comes with being in battles day in and day out where people and aliens alike are actively trying to kill you."

Rachel doesn't even want to imagine it.

"She is very good," Lena says. "Kind and hopeful and just so good, and the world is constantly trying to hurt her, and I just - it is not something I think I could get used to."

"What?"

"Watching her get hurt." She puffs out a breath. "I don't know how Alex does it."

Rachel doesn't know, either, and she also doesn't know what to say to make this better. To have it make sense. "You're - I mean, you're a tech genius, right?"

"Um. I guess?"

"Well, Alex gets to handle it by being in battle with Kara, right, so why can't you handle it by inventing things that would make sure she doesn't get hurt?"

Lena is quiet again. It takes nearly thirty seconds to get a response, which is unexpected when it does come. "Quinn mentioned you've recently moved into a new apartment."

Rachel is caught off guard by the topic change, but she'll allow Lena this moment. Because she's the one who is currently with Quinn. "I have," she says. "Just this past weekend, actually."

"Is it going well?"

"So far, yes," she says. "It wasn't easy dropping the news on my old roommates, but Quinn's comfort is the most important thing. She's already made friends with our neighbours, a set of twins who are almost as obsessed with Harry Potter as she is."

"That's a feat."

"You're telling me."

Lena hums. "I suppose all this means that you really are done fucking around with my sister, hmm?"

Rachel almost smiles. "She had to explain that to me properly," she says, because Rachel really did think it was just some kind of figure of speech Lena chose to use. "I can barely believe it."

"Neither can I," Lena admits. "Sometimes, I have to pinch myself, because I've had such horrid luck in my life that it still amazes me that the stars managed to align enough that we would meet at all, let alone learn whom we are to each other."

She does smile now, because she knows a thing or two about stars. "I'm grateful for it every day," she says. "Quinn deserves good things, even if all of this came out of a bad thing."

"You're adopted too, correct?"

"In a sense," Rachel says. "I have two fathers, and I have a biological mother. I didn't even question whether she existed until she showed up in my life at sixteen and decided to upend my carefully cultivated existence." She doesn't say it halfheartedly. No. Shelby did enter her life and ruffle it quite severely.

At that age, to be wanted was everything to her, and Shelby sold her dreams of actually getting to know her, and then decided Rachel wasn't actually what she wanted. She met her, and then decided she didn't actually want Rachel.

Didn't want to know her the way Rachel decided she wanted to know her in return.

Decided they would be best watching each other from afar.

Essentially told her that she wanted a child, and then realised Rachel didn't actually need a mother and just -

She left Rachel in the dark, and then immediately adopted a newborn baby. It still stings just thinking about it; more so that the baby she adopted is Quinn's biological daughter.

"My mother lives here in New York," Rachel says, "but I haven't seen her since I moved here."

"Would you even want to?" Lena asks.

"I think it's got a lot more complicated now that Quinn and I are dating," she says, and visibly winces at the idea of getting to know Shelby again, when Beth is this person that links Quinn to the woman. "But I don't know if I do want that, anyway."

"What if Quinn wants to know Beth?"

Rachel closes her eyes. "I don't know how receptacle Shelby would actually be to that," she says, and there's an irrational anger than lingers at how Shelby came back into their lives their senior year. She essentially dangled Beth in front of Quinn and actually acted surprised when the teenager devolved into a full-blown breakdown.

And Kurt claims she hasn't gone through enough.

Lena hums. "She's just another person who hurt you both."

"There are many."

"We should start a club," Lena says. "Adopted Kids with Mommy Issues."

Rachel chuckles. "Weirdly enough, I think we'd be inundated with members."

"Isn't that just the saddest thing?" Lena muses. "Though, I suppose that would give us an excuse to see each other."

Rachel frowns. "Why would we need an excuse?" she questions.

"It just - Quinn and I usually see each other when one of us is in crisis, or if there's a holiday of some sort," Lena says, "but neither of us has had a situation that calls for that in more than a month." There is a longing in her voice that Rachel recognises.

Rachel constantly wants Quinn near, as well, and this is one way she and Lena can actually bond. Because Rachel isn't under any illusion that Lena is actually accepting of her quite yet. She's not sure Lena will ever be and, frankly, that's okay.

The same way it's okay that her fathers will forever remain wary of Quinn, despite how much the two of them love each other.

Doesn't mean Rachel is going to stop trying to get Lena on her side. She knows they can get along quite well if Lena just lets them.

"I'm sure Quinn would love to see you, regardless," Rachel tells her, and she's certain of it. "She talks about you all the time." And it isn't even a lie. When Quinn isn't talking about school or her friends or her family in Sacramento, she's talking about Lena. It's almost as if she still doesn't believe they're related.

Or that someone who's related to her could know her and want to keep her. Sometimes, it's as if she's waiting for the other shoe to drop, because every other family she's had has thrown her away at some point, and that's something Rachel definitely understands.

"I do have some plans," Lena admits, "but Quinn seems to balk at any mention of the word plan."

Rachel smiles to herself, because that's partly her fault. They've thrown all plans to the wayside at this point. "Well," she says, "maybe I can help."


Kara probably wouldn't admit it to anyone, but her relationship with Lena starts to feel the most real the first time Lena rejoins them for Games Night. It takes a while, given all the work everyone has to do to get to a place where the hurt and betrayal aren't at the forefront of everyone's minds whenever they're in the same room.

Kara's been wary of bringing it up, too worried about rocking the boat, but Lena surprises her by mentioning it herself.

"Would that be okay with you?" Lena asks, and she's purposefully not looking at Kara. "I don't know if it's too soon."

Kara has to force herself to remain in her seat, because she could really start floating if she's not careful, and they're currently sitting in public. Maybe that's why Lena is bringing it up at all.

"Does it feel like it's too soon?" Kara asks, keeping her voice steady. She can't appear too giddy, because the last thing she wants is to scare off Lena. Telling her she's wanted her at Games Night since before they even started dating probably isn't the way to go right now.

Everything is not fixed.

Sometimes, Kara will mention something or allude to a time from before the secret was out, and Lena will get quiet, thoughtful. Kara knows she's remembering their previous interactions in a new light, now that she's aware of all the instances Kara must have lied to her.

They still have so many things to talk about, including but not limited to Jack, Mon-El and James. Lillian, Sam and the Kryptonite. Lex.

Oh, Rao, maybe it is too soon.

"Hey," Lena says, hand reaching out to cover Kara's. "You're far away."

"Hmm?"

"If it's too soon for you, you can tell me," Lena says. "Your comfort is my comfort."

Kara suddenly hates that they're currently having lunch is such a crowded restaurant. All she wants to do is wrap her arms around Lena and just hold on. "And your comfort is mine," she ends up saying. "I want you there on Friday. Of course, I do. I just don't want you to feel as if you have to - "

"To what?"

"Have you even spoken to anyone else?" Kara asks.

Lena looks away for a moment. "With all the work we've been doing trying to track down this weapons dealer, I've spent time with Alex, J'onn and Brainy," she reveals. "Otherwise, no, not really."

There's really only Nia, Kelly and M'gann left, and Kara can't foresee there being any further problems. It's just - it could end up being a lot.

Lena looks thoughtful. "Maybe we should wait for when Quinn's next here," she offers. "She can be a useful ice-breaker."

Kara doesn't mean to be awkward at the mention of Quinn's name, but she can't help it. Quinn hasn't yet told Lena about the summer internship with CatCo, and the fact Kara knows is eating away at her. She doesn't like keeping things from Lena - not when they've just recovered from the big thing - and Quinn is just taking her time.

Kara hums.

Lena gives her a curious look. "You know, you never did say what she wanted to talk to you about."

"No, I didn't."

"Did she swear you to secrecy?"

"Not exactly," Kara says. "Just, she has news she'd like to tell you herself, and I can't handle that I know something I'm technically not allowed to tell you yet."

"It's eating away at you, isn't it?"

"I think I'm getting an ulcer."

Lena laughs. "Darling, you don't get ulcers."

"Then why do I feel so sick to my stomach?"

"Because you've told yourself never to lie to me again, and it's affecting you physically that this is something you're actively forcing yourself not to tell me."

Kara sighs. "How do people live like this?"

Lena shakes her head, amused. "I think this Friday isn't too soon," she says, switching back to discussing Games Night. "I'd like to get back a semblance of what we had before, but better, and there's no use waiting."

Kara leans forward. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"What am I saying?"

"That I get my perfect partner back?"

Lena's entire body softens, not just her facial expression, and Kara can only wonder what she looks like in return. "Yes, Kara," she says, voice soft and confidential. "You get your perfect partner back," she adds, and her eyes are saying that she never really left at all.

To say the rest of Kara's week drags on is a bit of an understatement. She hasn't been this excited about a Games Night since -

Probably since the first one Lena ever attended.

She's nervous, though. Like the first go-around, she wants the evening to be perfect, which really equates to a lot of snacks. She wants Lena to feel welcome and feel as if she belongs, because she does. In life and on Games Night, Lena truly is Kara's perfect partner, and Kara wants the entire world to know it.

They'll start with their closest friends and family.

Kara is hosting, which makes her more nervous but also not. She has the power to make it a great night, sure, but she also has the power to overdo it in a way that will be obvious to everyone in attendance.

It ends up being a good thing Lena arrives earlier than everyone else, several bottles of wine in tow and packets of kale chips she brings just to get a reaction out of Kara.

Kara barely even notices, because Lena is here, in her apartment, for Games Night. She barely knows what to do with herself when she opens the door to reveal Lena's nervous smile.

Kara's breath leaves her body in a long whoosh, her heartbeat rising at merely the sight of her. "Wow," she says.

Lena's brow furrows. "What?"

"I just - " she starts, and stops. Smiles. "I just really love you."

Lena's expression is still tinged with nerves, but she returns Kara's smile. "I brought wine."

"I don't even care." Kara reaches for her and tugs her into the apartment, closing the door with her foot and wrapping Lena in a hug.

Lena breathes into her neck for a moment, before placing a kiss there. "Hi," she murmurs.

Kara's grip tightens for a beat, and then she forces herself to release her. "Hi," she says in response. "I'm so glad you're here."

Lena takes a look around the room. "Darling, did your fridge explode?"

"Hmm?"

"How many people are you planning to feed?"

Kara follows her gaze, taking in the various snacks she's laid out for the evening. "Is it too much?"

Lena gently touches her cheek. "You're very cute."

"I'm also a little nervous."

"You wouldn't even be able to tell," Lena tells her, winking, and Kara can now see what Lena meant when she said Quinn can lie to her and make sure Lena knows it.

Kara leans down to kiss Lena's lips. "I can eat all the potstickers before anyone else even arrives," she declares, and Lena's eyes sparkle.

She hands Kara a bottle of wine and says, "Let me get comfortable, and I'll time you."

And, Rao, Kara didn't think a love like this could exist. She feels smitten and lovesick, almost nauseous with how much of everything good she's feeling. She's convinced she must reek of it, and she half-expects that she and Lena will be teased endlessly once the night gets underway.

The opposite happens.

Nobody even mentions the obvious change in their relationship status, the two of them huddled together from the very start. In fact, all Lena gets are many, many hugs, a few welcome backs and a lot of we missed yous. There isn't a lot of awkwardness, Lena sliding back in seamlessly and all their inside jokes resuming.

Kara almost pinches herself, because it feels as if she's dreaming.

It's the moment she catches Alex looking at them, a soft look on her face, that Kara knows for sure this isn't some kind of dream. Alex's eyes are a little sad, warm with relief, and Kara suspects she knows what her sister is thinking.

Alex has been worried, almost as much as Kara has been. It wasn't anything set in stone that Kara would ever find something like this. Someone like this.

Someone like Lena, who knows every part of her now, sunshine and darkness, and still has chosen her. Lena, who has reached into Kara and dug around, scratched and clawed until she's raw, and is still here. Lena, who has met every part of Kara and decided she's worth it. Lena, who looks at Kara in a way she never allowed herself to dream.

It isn't even just the alienness that has had them worried. It plays a factor, sure, but Kara is more than just her heritage, and she's harboured a loneliness in her heart for so long that it was impossible to imagine a time in her life that it wouldn't remain.

That time is now, with Lena tucked into her side and debating with Brainy about something to do with radiation. That time is now, Kara surrounded by the most important people in her life - except Eliza - and not feeling as if she's missing something.

No.

She's not missing anything. For the first time since Krypton exploded, she feels whole.

There is no darkness here, in this moment, because her heart is full and overflowing, her life and love complete to an extent previously unimagined. In this moment, the world is beautiful and bright and shiny, everything in blinding, vibrant colour.

Chapter Text

xiii. i just wanted you to know that this is me trying

They go to Memphis.

Well, first they go to New York, and then they go to Memphis. Lena makes all the plans, because that's the kind of thing she likes to do.

Plan.

Quinn hasn't really been able to tell her that she and Rachel kind of threw all forms of 'plans' out the window, and just go through life day by day, and week by week. It's been working for them, somehow, but Lena does have a billion-dollar company to run, and she can't just take time off work on a whim.

At least not when she's not having some kind of identity crisis, that is.

When Quinn first brought up the idea of going, Lena seemed skeptical, but now she's picked up the idea and run with it. Kara even called Quinn to ask if she was aware of just what's been happening, her own voice a little high. Even Jess sent a slightly panicked text to Quinn.

They're going to Memphis, with the intention of uncovering any truths about their mother's life there, and possibly learning who their respective fathers are.

Maybe Lena is having some kind of identity crisis.

But first they're in New York to watch Rachel's last show in her end-of-year NYADA production. The semester is over, Finals all done and dusted, and Quinn is finally free to make the trip to watch her girlfriend perform, and hopefully make up for being unable to attend opening night. She has flowers and kisses aplenty to part with.

Lena and Kara are joining her, the three of them determined to show Rachel all the love and support during what is bound to be a launchpad for the rest of her very promising career. It's never really been in doubt, even if she suffered her NYADA admission scare their senior year.

Rachel Berry is going places, and Quinn is all in for the very exciting ride. It's different now, though. Before, Rachel's talent was camouflaged by her bluster, her desire to be known and recognised clouding the reason she would be. Now, she lets her talent speak for itself, her age having mellowed her out, and Quinn is proud of her for growing into the professional performer people want to work with.

The problem is -

Well.

See.

The show is a love story, between Rachel's character and the male lead's, Sean Champion. Objectively, he's a handsome young man, and Quinn knows he must be talented to have landed the role in the first place, but she's also aware the guy is kind of an asshole.

But the show's run is almost over and Sean will graduate, and Quinn will be able to whisk her girlfriend off to Tennessee, before they go to Ireland to visit Liz. All before Quinn heads to National City for her internship and Rachel returns to Lima for the majority of the summer.

Well. That last bit is still up for debate. They're waiting to see what happens.

For now, though, they're sitting in NYADA's main theatre and awaiting the start of the show. The bouquet of flowers Quinn has brought for Rachel is safely tucked under her seat, the stems wrapped in a damp cloth to preserve them, and she's predictably eager to watch her girlfriend perform. It's been a while since she's been able to do this in any capacity, but now she's front and centre, ready to cheer on Rachel.

What Quinn doesn't quite account for, though, is that she wouldn't be the only one supporting her on her last night. Lena and Kara, sure. Brody's there, too, sandwiching her between himself and Lena. But Rachel didn't mention her fathers would be coming, so Quinn realises she doesn't know. It's going to be a fitting surprise, and Quinn already knows she's going to cry.

Though, really, the kicker is that Rachel's fathers are actually joined by Kurt and Santana.

Quinn catches a glimpse of them for only a moment, and then she looks away immediately. Looks back again, but there's nobody there, and she has half a mind to accept she's just seeing things.

She's not, of course, as much as she wishes she were.

They end up sitting two rows behind Quinn and Co., a little more to the right side, and Quinn is tense for the first five minutes of the show. It's only when Rachel appears on stage that she starts to relax, Lena's hand on her arm attempting to soothe her. That doesn't really work, because Rachel is on stage and she's got Quinn all keyed up by merely existing.

She's breathtaking.

Everything about her.

For a moment, she almost doesn't blame Sean Champion for his neverending interest, but then he also gets to kiss her on stage, and Quinn is pretty sure that's too much tongue for a purely staged kiss. Rachel's discomfort is written all over her face when they break apart, but she hides it well.

What is it with boys just wanting to kiss Rachel on New York stages? Rachel handled it with surprising grace and composure their junior year of high school and she does the same now. It would just embarrass her for Quinn to say something at this point, but she would. Maybe even throw punches.

Hell, she knows Supergirl.

It's just, you see, Quinn ends up focusing on the wrong adversary. Sean Champion is easy compared to the people who once claimed to know her and still decided she was unworthy. It's one thing to acknowledge they're in attendance, and another thing entirely to see them.

It happens after the show, when Quinn is supposed to be waiting for Rachel with Lena and Kara in the front foyer of the theatre, but those two disappear off to the bathroom under the guise of freshening up. Quinn knows better, obviously, because the way Kara looks at Lena sometimes is positively indecent. Like, Quinn feels the need to scrub herself clean whenever she's near them.

So, Quinn is alone, right in the middle of a lion's den, and they can sense prey a mile away.

"Well, would you look who actually decided to show up?"

Quinn knows the voice, because of course she does. Despite what they all think, Santana did play a significant role in getting her to this point in her life. She showed Quinn just what she can expect from someone who claims to be her friend because Santana was never it.

When Quinn does turn around, Kurt and Santana are standing there. They look older than she remembers, weary and a little aged. They've matured, visibly, but Quinn doubts the same has happened in other ventures.

Quinn would ignore them, but she can see Rachel's fathers just over Santana's shoulder, and she still hasn't quite been able to talk to them. Hasn't been able to explain herself and figure out if she's going to have to make up for something she might have done as a teenager.

Getting into some kind of spat with Kurt and Santana definitely won't endear her to them.

Quinn takes a breath and says, "Hello," as neutrally as she can manage. If this is all the interaction they get, that would be just fine with her. They can walk in different directions, and Quinn will still be the person who gets to go home with Rachel Berry.

But Kurt and Santana don't get the memo, and it's as if they forget they're currently standing in a rather public theatre foyer, surrounded by people from the audience who may or may not be able to make or break Rachel's career.

"That's it?" Santana asks, scoffing. "More than a year of radio silence and that's all you have to say?"

"What did you expect?" Kurt comments from Santana's left side, and Quinn really wishes Rachel would emerge from wherever she is right now. "We probably didn't even cause a blip in her life."

Actually, this is all Kara and Lena's fault for going to the bathroom together. Couldn't they keep their hands off each other for just one night? All she needed was a few hours, and now they're doing goodness knows what while she's standing here and trying desperately hard not to get drawn into making a scene.

Quinn isn't above it. She and Santana have had a literal slap-fight in a school corridor. It's just that Quinn is older now. She's more self-aware, and she definitely wouldn't forgive herself for ruining Rachel's night.

Quinn remains silent.

"So, that's your ploy, is it?" Santana asks, and there's guilt and fear and rage in her eyes. "Don't show up for anything, somehow manage to weasel your way back into Rachel's life, and then just take her away from us?" The words are designed to get a reaction out of her, but it doesn't work.

She burns, of course, because they know nothing. Quinn has taken Rachel away from nobody.

"You're just going to stand there and pretend you haven't betrayed all of us?" Santana says, and Quinn gets the feeling this has very little to do with Rachel, or even Finn's funeral.

"What would you like me to say?" Quinn asks, brow creased, because maybe she can say what needs to be done and they can all move on with their lives.

"What would I like you to say?" she echoes, incredulous. "Well, why don't you start with why you've been such a heartless bitch for the past year?" A pause. "Or, better yet, for your entire existence?"

And, well, Quinn thinks here we go.

She's not entirely sure what she's going to say but, before she can even open her mouth, Lena appears at her side and says, "Is there a problem here?" with a tone that's laced with danger danger danger.

A tone that tells them here comes Quinn's big sister.


It's almost annoying how good she is.

Lena knows Kara can sing. Alex, too. Even Quinn, when she's actually trying, but there is something about Rachel's voice that isn't like any other human being on the planet, and she makes sure every member of that audience knows it. Makes sure they remember it.

The final applause is deafening.

It continues ringing in Lena's ears long after it's over; even after they've shuffled out of the theatre and into the foyer. Quinn seems slightly distracted, her eyes darting about, and Lena can feel Kara's hand on the small of her back, steady presence and warmth.

She's actually standing too close. Lena can smell her shampoo and, if she turns her head just a little, she'll be able to run the tip of her nose along Kara's jaw.

Temptations temptations.

Kara must be thinking something similar, because her hand slides further down and she drops her voice to a murmur. "You think Rachel will take a while?" she asks, and Lena feels the burn of her touch through the fabric of her dress. "I need the bathroom."

Well then.

Kara doesn't really have a tell, per se, but she's usually ready to go whenever Lena is. It might be a lot to do with her Kryptonian stamina, but Lena knows it has a considerable amount to do with her.

Kara loves her.

Kara wants her, constantly. She's no longer afraid to show her and tell her just how much, and Lena has to remind her a few times that she really is only human. Kara always gives her this look whenever Lena tells her that, as if she doesn't believe her.

As if she's more than just what she claims.

Lena reaches blindly for Kara's other hand, entangling their fingers. She tugs lightly, which is signal enough, and the two of them leave Quinn bickering with Brody in a way that they're both smiling.

Just a few minutes.

Quinn won't miss her.

It's a famous last thought that she files away for the few minutes she and Kara spend making out in a bathroom stall. She's not against getting frisky in public - have you seen Kara - but this night is about Rachel and they really can't spend as long as Lena would like just the two of them.

"Later," Kara promises when they reluctantly pull apart, and Lena is grateful for it when they do finally return to Quinn to find Brody nowhere in sight but rather two people Lena recognises with a healthy amount of distaste.

Which is only aggravated when she catches the tail-end of whatever they have to say to Quinn.

"Well, why don't you start with why you've been such a heartless bitch for the past year?" A tense pause. "Or, better yet, for your entire existence?"

Lena hears the words and the meaning behind them, and she reacts.

It's almost visceral, the desire to protect that erupts in her chest and has her stepping right up to Quinn's side, dropping the register of her voice and very purposefully asking, "Is there a problem here?"

And, God, the way if feels to have these children visibly startle at the sound of her voice is a little worrying. Lena knows she holds power - through her stance, surname and status - but she's really just Quinn's older sister in this moment, and she knows Frannie would appreciate the drama of it all.

They've both missed out on so much of Quinn's life; all they can do it try to make up for it now.

Quinn glances at her now, and Lena can't mistake the relief in her eyes. "Hey," she says. "This is, um, these are Rachel's old roommates, Kurt and Santana."

Lena nods, as if Quinn is telling her new information. Lena already knows more than enough about these two human beings to know Quinn is better off without them in her life. She has Rachel, and she has Amy and Poppy. She has Lena and Kara. She'll find more who are worthy.

"Oh, come now, Quinn," Santana says, and her voice is knowing, "That's not all we are."

Lena watches Quinn as she says, "You're right, Santana, you were once my friend, who stopped speaking to me right when I was in the middle of my sexuality crisis, and this is Kurt, who's never been my friend, but believes it's his place to make judgments about how I live my life." She smiles. "Is that accurate enough for you?"

Santana's jaw clenches, Kurt opens his mouth to speak, but it's Lena who says, "Oh, the ones who believe you're heartless?"

Quinn blinks. "Um. Yes."

"Wrote all that shit about you when you couldn't make it to Finn's funeral for a completely legitimate reason that they didn't even bother to find out before going off on all your social media like they wanted you dead, too?"

Lena can feel everyone's discomfort growing, even Kara's, who is dutifully standing just behind her. She probably enjoys it too much, the way the two people standing in front of Quinn look like they've tasted something sour.

To her credit, Santana recovers quickly. "And who are you?"

Lena can only wonder if she doesn't actually recognise her, but it's not her concern. "Lena Luthor," she says, "perhaps you've heard of me."

Their eyes dart to Quinn, who has a tiny smile on her face. "What?" Quinn says. "Don't you know her? It's okay if you didn't realise it was her. I didn't recognise her either when we first met, but she's never held it against me."

"Of course not, dear," Lena says, hand on the back of Quinn's neck, tickling the tiny hairs she finds there. It's intimate, the action, and she almost wants them to read into it. "At the time, it was a blessing."

Santana looks between them. "What is happening right now?" she asks. "You're not - no fucking way, Q. You brought someone else to Berry's show?"

Lena would roll her eyes if she weren't so slighted, on Quinn's behalf. And Kara's, who is so obviously with her.

"That's low, even for you," Kurt comments, and Lena has the sudden desire to wrap her hand around his neck and squeeze. She knows herself; she knows what she's capable of. She could do it, and she would, but she knows Quinn and Kara wouldn't let her.

How she's managed to surround herself with people with such pure hearts, she has no clue. If Quinn is considered heartless - this Quinn right here standing in front of her - then Lex is the fucking Easter Bunny.

"Assumptions, assumptions," Lena says, eyes on Kurt. "You know what they say about them."

"What are you even doing with Lena Luthor?" Santana asks. "Frankly, what is she doing with you?"

Quinn doesn't immediately answer, her gaze darting to Lena, as if gaging how comfortable she is with revealing just what they've been through. She looks uncomfortable, herself, though, and Lena realises Quinn doesn't actually want to have to be the one to tell them.

Quinn won't air her trauma. She'd rather they think what they want about her. It's admirable, sure, and stupidly noble, and it is a wonder that Quinn thinks she and Lena are so alike when she's actually so much like Kara.

Lena steps forward, closer to Quinn. Her smile is sickly sweet when she says, "Oh, I'm also Quinn's sister, but you can't be expected to know that." Before they can even question how that's possible, Lena continues. "I believe you've heard of Operation Ellis, haven't you? You see, while the lot of you were busy sending her all your nasty words, she was finding out she's actually adopted, stolen from her biological family and bought by another. Can you imagine that? Can you even imagine what that would be like, coupled with the loss of her friend, and then having to deal with all you lot had to say about something you didn't even bother to try to understand?" She scoffs. "And you claim she's unworthy. Maybe you should look in the mirror."

There is no response forthcoming, and Lena can see the cogwheels turning in their heads as they try to make sense of what Lena's just revealed. Even saying it out loud herself has Lena feeling unsettled. She doesn't even want to imagine what that was all like for Quinn.

Quinn, who is looking at her now with eyes that are grateful but still wary. There are things Lena could say, about how Quinn deserves better friends than these; tell her that she's strong and worthy and the world won't be able to break her.

Lena's words seem unnecessary, though, because then Rachel is there, emerging from somewhere to boisterous applause from the people gathered in the front foyer, claiming all their attention. Her cheeks are red, embarrassed and proud, with the biggest smile on her face, but Lena watches the way Quinn just seems to melt at the sight of her. Relax and breathe, as if nothing could be wrong with her world if Rachel is near.

It makes Lena ache, but in a good way, because this is what she wants for her. A love that can bring her happiness and contentment and safety.

Rachel makes her way through the crowd towards them, accepting congratulations as her eyes seek out Quinn. And then she's there, an arm sliding around Quinn's waist as she lifts herself onto her toes to kiss Quinn's cheek.

It is a big, important thing that Quinn is the first person she greets, whispering a few words in Quinn's ear before she acknowledges anyone else. Before even her parents, whom she actually doesn't seem to notice until Quinn points them out to her, getting a shriek of surprise and delight out of her.

Lena looks away then, because she knows that she and Quinn and Kara will never get a moment like this with their own parents, biological or not. Kara must sense her thoughts, because her arms wrap around Lena's shoulders, engulfing her in warmth and comfort.

"I love you," Kara whispers into her ear, and she imagines Rachel whispered the same words into Quinn's ear just moments ago. This is what she wants for herself as well: happiness and contentment and safety.

She's known from the very beginning that she would find them with Kara, and she's finally stopped being afraid of it.


They go out to dinner.

Rachel's fathers insist, and Quinn can't say no, even if she mentions that she's actually here with Lena and Kara. Tech mogul and established reporter.

Hiram and LeRoy appear very interested in hearing how that came to be, which is how Quinn finds herself sitting at a table with Rachel, Rachel's fathers, Lena and Kara.

No Brody, who bailed when he first caught sight of Rachel's fathers. And no Kurt and Santana, who were not invited to join them when Rachel's appearance effectively shut down all conversation and confrontation. Quinn is relieved by that, because she's had enough of them for one evening.

One lifetime, as it were.

She's trying to appear unaffected by the entire display, but they're capable of evoking feelings in Quinn she's tried very hard to work through. She knows she wasn't a good teenager, lost and confused and just trying her best given the situation. She didn't always make the right choices, though she thinks she's paid rather heavily for those.

It's just continually jarring being seen as a person intent on harm. She loves Rachel. Loves her with her whole heart and every fibre of her being. She may be young, but she's loved this girl in various ways for many years already. Quinn isn't going to mess that up. Not now, when they've just about figured things out.

It's why she tries so hard to make a good impression on Rachel's fathers. It's bothered her, the understanding that she's been a villain in Rachel's history. Lena told her otherwise, of course. And Rachel has repeatedly reminded her she's forgiven, but Quinn can't quite believe it when she was the one who was there, making all those hurtful decisions that make her once-friends' opinions of her valid.

It's when LeRoy asks about their upcoming trip to Tennessee that Rachel's hand settles on her thigh and stays there. Rachel explained to them over the phone what her plans are for her summer, almost without actually asking permission, and Quinn is wary.

She doesn't anticipate there being a day she isn't.

Rachel's relationship with her parents is nothing Quinn has ever seen. It's almost as if she's just another adult having a very adult conversation with them, explaining her decisions like they've all been these grownups for a long, long time. It's evident from the way they discuss Rachel's plans that they trust her enough to make these kinds of decisions for herself.

More so when she says, "You don't have anything to worry about," and looks at Quinn. "I'll be with Quinn."

Both men look at her, and she can't stop herself from saying, "We're also going with Kara and Lena." She manages a smile. "They're older and a lot more responsible."

Kara chuckles. "Oh, it's best not to include me in that - Lena's the real adult here."

Lena leans forward, looking all for the world like the stoic businesswoman she is. She's very clearly Lena Luthor, her expression open and severe as she assures Rachel's parents that their daughter is going to be perfectly safe during their trip south, and then across the pond.

"How do you two know each other, again?" LeRoy asks, looking between Quinn and Lena. Quinn knows Rachel has explained very little, mainly leading with the truth that she's dating Quinn and that they're deeply in love.

"It's a long story," Quinn preempts.

Hiram doesn't look put off by the idea. "We're willing to listen if you're willing to tell."

Quinn glances at Lena, silently seeking her permission to divulge their past, present and future, but she gives Quinn nothing in response.

Instead, she looks to the two men who very obviously care about their daughter and her well-being and says, "Have you ever heard of Operation Ellis?"

Quinn has never been more grateful for her.


Lena lets everyone think she's apprehensive about their trip to Tennessee for the obvious reasons - finding truths on their biological parentage - but there's something else on her mind that she knows she's going to have to reveal.

She's not looking forward to it.

They visit Nashville when they first land in the state, which is where Ella arrived the first time she made the trip with her young love, intent on pursuing a career in music that just never came to fruition.

It's the city Lena was born in, apparently, and finding those hospital records prove far easier with an actual name. Turns out she's had her birth date wrong all along. There also isn't a father listed, which is fine, but it just makes Lena more antsy.

Kara notices, of course, but her fidgeting is easily explained. She must know her lack of stillness has caused some concern for all three of her travel companions. It's just that, well, Lena knows the news she has to share will change things, but also nothing.

She just can't be sure how Quinn is going to react.

Lena holds off until they're in Memphis, the two of them standing in a bedroom of a house that their mother once lived in more than two decades ago. Kara and Rachel have allowed them this moment together, opting to leave the sisters to their discoveries, and now they're surrounded by a space that once held their mother.

A woman neither of them truly remembers. A woman they've had to learn about through other people who knew her while she was still alive. Lena could get caught in the unfairness of it all, but she's experienced enough life to know nothing is ever fair.

The room, itself, is normal. There's a college student living here now, though she's on summer vacation and has returned home. The older landlady, Isabel, took one look at Lena and said, "I knew you would come." Eyes shifted to Quinn and added, "And you brought Lucy."

Quinn has spent the last fifteen minutes learning all she can about their mother from the woman, hearing stories from so long ago that Lena can't ignore the fact it really was a different life for all of them. She doesn't register much, because there's something she needs to tell Quinn and she has to tell her now.

It's when they're standing in the room, Quinn's eyes a little wide and alert, taking in everything they can. Lena knows they're going to dim. She can basically see it happening, but she has no choice. She should have done this sooner.

"Quinn, there's something I didn't tell you," Lena starts, and she knows this can go one of two ways. Quinn can see it as a mercy, or she can feel betrayed.

Lena didn't lie, but she also didn't tell the entire truth.

When Quinn looks at her, it's obvious she's expecting the worst. She was always going to, because Lena knows she's harboured the feeling as well: the other shoe is going to drop.

Lena can only hope it's not too muddy.

"The test," Lena says when Quinn just looks at her, bracing herself. "I didn't - you didn't ask to see it."

Quinn frowns. "What test?"

"The blood test."

Quinn goes still. If Lena weren't looking into her eyes, she would think she was frozen in time and place. If Lena weren't looking into her eyes, she wouldn't see Quinn's own eyes dim as realisation sets in.

She takes a step back, and she looks devastated. "We're not sisters?" she whispers, and her voice is small. So very small.

Oh, God.

What?

"We are," Lena says, voice firm. "Quinn, dear, God, don't ever think otherwise, okay? We're sisters. You're Lucy and I'm Lena. We have the same mother."

"Then what didn't you tell me?" Quinn asks, and there's desperation in her voice now. "What is it? Lena?"

It's the moment she realises she's done this all wrong. Right now, and by not telling Quinn in the first place. "I love you," Lena tells her. "And I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"We have the same mother," Lena says. "But the truth is that the test revealed something unexpected."

"Oh my God, do we have some kind of genetic disorder or something?"

"What? No." Lena takes a step forward, reclaiming the space Quinn has put between them. "Can you just - I'm trying to explain." She takes a breath. "We have the same mother, Quinn."

"I know. You said that."

"We also have the same father."

"What?"

Lena reaches for her, hands needing to hold onto her baby sister. They settle over Quinn's upper arms, just near her shoulders. "I don't know how and I don't know why, but that man came back into her life and - "

"We are sisters?"

"We are sisters," Lena confirms. "Completely and truly. No different fathers. Your blood is my blood. You're mine, do you hear me? Mine, and I'm yours, and I claimed you long before that stupid test."

Quinn stares at her. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know." And it's the truth. "I never really thought we would be here, discovering things about her and her life, about him and how much he didn't deserve her. I just - it didn't occur to me it would matter, because it doesn't. Whether we have the same father or not, you're still mine."

Quinn slowly nods. "I'm still yours," she echoes. "You're not - "

"I'm keeping you," Lena says. "You can't get rid of me. I'm not going anywhere."

"You should have told me."

"I know."

"Can you hug me now?"

Lena's smile is sad, but she does as requested, wrapping her arms around Quinn's shoulders and just holding her. The world doesn't exist beyond this moment, just the two of them.

Quinn is the one to initiate the release, arms dropping from around Lena's waist. "The dude was an asshole, wasn't he?"

Lena can't speak for a man she's never met, but the impression his absence has given is telling. He left Ella, twice. He came back once, and Lena can only wonder if he came back a second time and just didn't find her.

Does he know his children were taken, transported out of state, and adopted by families that could never quite love them the way their mother did? Would he even care?

"He totally was," Quinn concludes for herself, and then she laughs. "You reckon our mother's experience with him is the reason we're both dating women right now?"

It's not even funny, but Lena still joins in her laughter. "You're ridiculous," she says.

Quinn shrugs. "I kind of want to punch him."

"I can try to find him," Lena hesitantly offers, because she hasn't really been trying. She's still not sure she actually wants to know whom he is, herself, but she's somewhat willing to keep looking if that's what Quinn decides she wants.

"Just so I can punch him?"

Lena meets her gaze. "You're allowed to be curious about him," she says. "Despite whatever happened between him and our mother, he is half of your genetic DNA."

"And yours."

Lena drops her gaze.

"You're not curious?"

Lena shakes her head. "Not really," she reveals. "It's not something I've thought about."

"Because Lionel wasn't as terrible a father as mine?" Quinn asks, and this isn't something they've necessarily sat and talked about. Lionel. Russell. Their yet unnamed biological father.

Lena knows few things of just how Russell treated Quinn growing up, and she's worried for what she might do if she learns more atrocities. The man could end up joining Noah Puckerman in a prison of his own choosing.

"The more I learn of him, the worse the idea of him gets in my head," Quinn says. "I don't want to think of him in any way, but I - there are things I'd like to know. I want to be able to look into his eyes and ask him why he left her. Why he left you. Why he left all of us. I want to know that, at least, heartlessness isn't actually genetic."

"Hey."

Quinn looks away. "I'd like to know," she says.

Lena nods, still unsure how she's supposed to help Quinn with all of this. "Okay."


Quinn can tell Rachel doesn't quite know how to handle her silence. It's not anything she has power over, but she's in a sombre mood after her afternoon with Lena, and now her girlfriend is sitting across from her and looking uncertain.

With a soft sigh, Quinn shifts her position in the armchair she's occupying and gently pats her own lap. It takes a moment, but then Rachel is getting to her feet and crossing the room to sit sideways in her lap, legs dangling over the arm of the chair.

A human arm slides around her neck, gentle fingers in her hair. Rachel kisses her cheek and whispers, "Tell me what you need."

Quinn takes a breath, intent on telling her just what she does need, but what she ends up saying is, "I don't think my father ever loved me," and the words are a surprise to them both.

Rachel sits very still, fingers threading through Quinn's hair.

"I've known this for a while, but I think I realised just how true it is today," Quinn says. "Russell was - he was many things and, when I found out I was adopted, there was - I couldn't help - "

"Quinn," Rachel soothes.

"It was such a relief," she reveals, almost blurting the words, "to know I wasn't actually related to him. To know I wasn't anything like him; that there was a chance I wouldn't end up like him." She tilts her head forward, resting her forehead against Rachel's cheek. "But now my actual biological father might not be any better, and I just - there's a part of me that doesn't want to know, but I also - what if there's a chance he's not actually the Devil incarnate? What if there's a chance I managed to escape that?"

"Hey."

Quinn looks at her, expression lost and a little helpless.

"The DNA in your veins does not make you the person you are," she says, and her voice is firm enough that she must believe it. Quinn suspects she's thinking about Shelby in this moment. "I know it plays a part - genetics are complicated things - but I don't think it will help you or anyone to base your own self on someone unworthy of you."

Quinn drops her gaze, strangely embarrassed.

"Does this have something to do with Kurt and Santana?" Rachel asks. "Because you and I both know they have no right to any opinions of you. I'm sorry I wasn't able - I'm sorry couldn't be the champion you needed this past year. I'm sorry I let them judge you. I'm sorry I hurt you trying to figure out my own feelings."

Quinn presses a palm to her cheek. "When you think of high school, what's the first thing that comes to mind?"

"Glee." There's no hesitation; not even a second of thought. "It was probably the best and worst part of those four years."

Quinn manages a smile. "Do you know what I think of first?"

"What?"

"You."

Rachel's breath catches, but Quinn doesn't think it's because the sentiment is unexpected. She probably just didn't expect Quinn to admit it. They haven't really spent a lot of time talking about their high school experience, but it's an open secret between them that Quinn has harboured feelings for Rachel for longer than either of them is strictly comfortable with.

"You," she repeats, anyway. "Every moment, all the things worth remembering, good and bad, just you. Always just you."

Rachel's fingers trace the line of her jaw. "Baby, I don't know what you're trying to tell me."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

"I still don't know who I am," Quinn whispers. "I thought, maybe, I would figure it out, but there's just - I don't know who I am."

Rachel's hands hold her face, making her look at her. "I know who you are."

"Who am I?"

Their foreheads touch. "You're Lucy Quinn Fabray, twenty years old, smart and snarky, beautiful and kind of an asshole, selfless and giving, and bound to take over the world with her tech genius sister."

"People should run and hide."

Rachel kisses the tip of her nose. "You are good, Quinn," she whispers. "I know you've spent a lot of time defined by other people's opinions of you, but I want you to think about only the people who matter. The others, those people who aren't bothered to know you - including both your fathers - they don't matter. They've never mattered."

"Just you?"

Rachel shakes her head. "You're the only one who matters."

"You matter to me," she says. "What you think of me, it's always mattered to me, even when I told myself I didn't care."

"We are both very complicated people."

Quinn tilts her head slightly. "Can I ask?" she says, voice quiet.

"You can."

"Do you wish you never met Shelby?"

Rachel doesn't answer immediately. Just sits and thinks for a long time, which Quinn appreciates. "I want to say yes," she finally says. "It would have hurt less never to have known her, but I do think the experience has helped define me in some way. Do I wish things played out differently, yes, but I'm glad I'm no longer curious about who she is, even if I can't remember if I actually truly was until she forced her way into my life."

It's a lot to think about, and Quinn wonders if the image of her biological father would be ruined if she ever met him. Maybe he's worse than her imagination has conjured. Maybe he's better. Would she rather not know? Schrödinger's cat and all that.

She sighs, and Rachel sighs with her.

Quinn manages a smile. "You know what I think about when it all just gets a little… too complicated and overwhelming?"

"What?"

"I stop and remind myself that I am in this moment because I am meant to be in this moment," Quinn says. "And so are you. That brings me all the comfort I could ever need, particularly when you're right next to me."

"Quinn?"

"Hmm?"

Rachel stares at her for a long, long time. She doesn't speak, though, and Quinn decides she doesn't actually need her to. The look in her eyes is more than enough. Quinn can hear her unspoken words as clear as if she's said them herself.

They're in this moment together, and always will be.


"You're being quiet," Kara says, voice gentle. "It's a normal thing, I know, but there's something different about this quiet." Her hand reaches out to tuck a lock of hair behind Lena's ear, the two of them standing facing each other on the balcony of their Memphis hotel room. "What can I do?"

Lena doesn't necessarily feel helpless, but she's stuck on what she actually has to do. It's easy, this part. Finding names and people, she can do that. Even Kara can do that.

But she doesn't want to.

Because finding Quinn's father is finding her own father, and she doesn't - why would she even make the offer?

When it comes to Quinn, Lena has been the most selfless she's ever been in her life, which is why she offered in the first place. But now she doesn't know if she's actually willing to do this thing for her, and she's tempted to ask Kara to do it, instead. But then she also doesn't want this to be something Kara keeps from her, either, so it leaves her with a bit of a dilemma.

"What can I do?" Kara asks again, and Lena loves her with everything she is and everything she will be.

Marry me. She thinks the words, loud and clear in her own head, but she won't dare say them. She and Kara have barely been doing this relationship thing for weeks, even if it already feels like years.

It has been years.

Lena reaches for her, hands closing around the front of Kara's cardigan and pulling her closer. "I love you," she murmurs instead, which is a less disastrous sentiment. Then: "Quinn wants to know who our father is, but I don't - I can't - "

"Hey."

"After Ireland," Lena finally says, nodding her head. "Maybe I'll feel different." Maybe she'll be able to stomach the idea of actually doing what she offered to Quinn: give her a chance to know him.

Kara just wraps her arms around her, which is probably a kindness at this point, because they both know Lena won't change her stance once they're back from visiting Liz. Why would she? She's already had enough people in her life to disappoint her.

"After Ireland," Kara confirms for her anyway, which is their next stop on Lena's summer plan to learn more about where she and Quinn actually come from.

Getting to see Liz is the cherry on top, though. For a terrifying moment during the flight across the Atlantic, Lena was certain Liz would have forgotten them. Her memory isn't fading, but it is fickle, and Lena is increasingly aware that she and Quinn haven't been able to squeeze a good chunk of time out to come and see her.

Kara assures her she has nothing to worry about, and Liz practically proves it when she yells, "Ella," the second Lena walks into the room ahead of Kara, Quinn and Rachel.

Kara makes the introductions, explaining to Rachel that Liz tends to refer to people by their mother's name, which is -

Lena winces when Rachel tucks herself into Quinn's side and quietly says, "I don't have a mother."

It's Liz who says, "Neither do I," and that seems to be that. She takes to Rachel immediately, the two of them finding common ground in classic films and the West End. Lena has to take one look at the expression on Quinn's face to know just how much this means to her.

Quinn must feel her gaze, because her own drifts away from Liz and Rachel to her instead. She raises her eyebrows in question, but Lena doesn't have any kind of response.

All she knows is that she feels it too. Whatever it is, she definitely feels it. Sitting here in a tiny town in Ireland, surrounded by her favourite people in the world - her family - and not worrying about anything else. How did she get so lucky?

"You're looking thoughtful," Quinn says, having crossed the room. Her smile is small and knowing, eyes twinkling like she knows something Lena doesn't.

"Just thinking."

"Care to share?"

Lena shrugs, eyes finding the windows where she can see Kara happily working in the garden with a few of the other Albion residents. "We're pretty lucky, aren't we?"

Quinn's head tilts to the left. "How so?"

"I just - I'm a scientist, you know," she says. "I deal in facts and numbers and statistics and probabilities, and it is just wild that we've ended up right here, in this moment."

Quinn looks at her, clearly understanding the feeling Lena is trying to describe. "You sound more and more like me with every day that passes."

Lena gently bumps her shoulder against hers. "I mean it," she says. "The way life works, it really makes it near impossible that this is the way our lives have worked out." She turns to face Quinn. "We're lucky."

Quinn's eyes are dark, a certain appreciation for the fact they are here existing between them. "Well, Lena, we are Irish."

Lena laughs. "Gosh, what am I ever going to do with you?"

"Keep me."

Lena reaches for her hand, pressing their palms together. "I think I can manage that," she says. "You're the only family I need," she adds, and she means it. Sure, she has Liz and she also might have inherited Quinn's adoptive family and she has her friends, but Quinn is -

Quinn is her sister.

Quinn squeezes her hand. "I've been thinking about it," she says. "About our biological father."

Lena holds her breath.

"I think - I think I'm okay with not knowing," she reveals. "I was - I wanted to know about him for the wrong reasons, and I can't say that I actually - " she stops, frowning. "You're the only biological family I need, too." She pauses, frowns. "Besides Liz, of course, don't forget her." She huffs. "Damn. I was just trying to be cute, but - "

"I know what you mean, dear."

Quinn chuckles. "Don't mention that to Frannie, though."

Lena won't.

"Are you okay?" Quinn asks after a moment. "You really were looking thoughtful. Rachel tells me thinking too much isn't always a good thing."

"She has her moments."

"She's grown on you, hasn't she?"

Lena doesn't offer her a response. Just squeezes her hand, rests her head on her shoulder and allows herself to exist in the moment with all the people she's come to love.


In just the first two weeks of her stay in National City, Quinn manages to interrupt Kara and Lena five seconds from having sex an impressive seven times. It's more scarring than it is satisfying, and she makes an executive decision to sit Lena down and come up with a better system.

Her own sensibilities require it, and Alex definitely appreciates it.

Quinn has been fascinated by National City in the past, but she truly falls in love with it by actually living in it. Lena won't let her stay anywhere other than in her penthouse with her, which is fine and expected, but it takes Quinn a while to feel as if she's not actually imposing. It's one thing to visit her, but living with her for almost two months feels borderline excessive.

Especially when Lena and Kara are in the middle of exploring their relatively young romantic relationship. But Lena insists, even looking a little alarmed at merely the mention of any other plan for accommodation, and Quinn reasons this is one way they're going to make up for all the years they missed out on.

Life is very different on this side of the country, and she's almost desperate not to enjoy it too much. It's just that she's with Lena, and Kara, and she's not too far from her mother and Frannie, and it's spoiling her being so close to the people she sometimes tries to convince herself she doesn't actually need.

National City might even be the compromise they all made, because Quinn actually spent large chunks of her previous summer travelling Europe rather than being anywhere specifically close to her family.

Lena holds a lot of power, it would seem.

The one main issue is the distance from Rachel, which even includes a change in time zones. After spending two weeks together in Tennessee and Ireland, Rachel returned to Ohio and Quinn continued on her way to California for the remainder of her summer.

Even if Quinn weren't currently interning at CatCo, she would have ended up on this side of the country anyway. With the baby expected any day now and her entire family in California, it was always going to be a no-brainier. Rachel tells her she understands, but Quinn can feel the strain of the distance that can't be closed with just a two-hour train ride.

Which Kara has a simple solution to.

Kara, who made sure to get herself assigned as Quinn's mentor at CatCo, and they form a little trio of chaos with Nia Nal in the office. Getting to work with Kara is an experience in itself, learning from her and learning even more about her. This actual being that passes as human, but isn't at all.

Because she's also Supergirl, and Quinn has to remind herself of it quite a few times a day. Kara Danvers is unassuming enough that it continually makes sense how Lena could have missed it if one was determined not to look hard enough.

Having Supergirl in her life is something extraordinary. When she's not bloody and woozy and basically mooning over Lena, Supergirl is truly something to behold. She oozes power and loyalty, and Quinn can see how Lena never quite stood a chance. The thirst tweets Nia jokingly sends to her and Kara on a daily basis just make a lot of sense.

The first time Kara tentatively offers to take her flying, Quinn says yes so fast she might have been considered the alien in the room. It helps - or perhaps doesn't - that Lena looks so uncomfortable with the idea, but Quinn has repeatedly told her she's an air person and there just isn't a day in hell she's ever going to pass up this opportunity.

Kara, in return, is delighted, and presses a reassuring kiss to Lena's cheek, promising to have her back safely in no time.

No time.

Kara makes sure she's wrapped up against a cold she can't quite feel when her feet are on the ground, and then they take to the sky and don't return for a full seven hours. It's one of those things Quinn wishes she could write about; this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but she holds onto it all very tightly. This moment is just for her. And Kara.

"Sometimes, I forget," Kara tells her, the two of them hovering over the Amazon Rainforest, "what it can feel like."

Quinn doesn't turn her head to look at her. They're already too close, Quinn's feet on Kara's, an arm around her shoulders. "What what can feel like?"

"This," she says. "Flying. Seeing the world. Feeling weightless. Sometimes, I forget it's a singular experience."

Now, Quinn does look at her. "Is it?" she asks, because she's just as aware of Superman as the rest of the world. If anything, she's more familiar with him, given New Haven's proximity to Metropolis, but she's never talked to Kara about it, or him.

"It is," Kara confirms, voice quiet, and Quinn doesn't question her. Kara would know better than Quinn ever could. They remain, hovering in silence, until Kara drops them a little and says, "You're not scared, are you?"

"Not even a little bit." The words come out easily, truthfully, and Kara must believe her.

"I know Lena offered her plane whenever you want to see Rachel, but I can assure you that I'm much faster," she says, and Quinn doesn't have to look to know she's smiling smugly. She could probably fly at breakneck speeds if she didn't have to worry about a human being as cargo.

The thought gives her an idea. "You can get anywhere in the world," she states. "Quickly, and often."

Kara nods, a slight crease in her brow. "Yup."

"Cool."

"Why?"

Quinn just shakes her head. "I'll tell you later," she deflects. "Now, you reckon we can drop any lower?" Then: "Have you ever fought a jaguar?"

Kara is, in a sense, as determined and dogged as Quinn suspects a reporter should be. It reminds her of Rachel, who spent their high school years chipping away at her until she had no choice to give in, and these are the skills Quinn gets to witness whenever Kara is in reporter-mode.

She's different from the normal, bubbly Kara, but not quite as intense and laser-focused as Supergirl. It's a lot, even for Quinn, and she wonders how Lena handles all the various sides of her.

"She's just Kara," Lena says, as if it's just that simple.

Maybe it is.

Quinn desperately wishes it to be.

She can pretend all she wants that she's not sentimental, but it's rooted deep in her. She and Lena are actually rather similar that way, both of them determined to hold on to anything and everything good but not quite willing to let anyone know just how tightly.

As a younger sister, she wasn't able to experience this part with Frannie. She wasn't there to watch Frannie meet and fall in love with Maxwell. She didn't even get to tease her about it, rather getting snippets from people that weren't Frannie.

It is vastly different with Lena and Kara, and Quinn is given the simple pleasure of getting to witness her sister exist in this new, overwhelming love. Quinn didn't know Lena Luthor could blush so much, or that Kara is actually a bit of a fiend.

Just.

National City is where she needs to be, and she struggles to justify that when the probable love of her life is in another state entirely. For the most part, it truly is a future problem, given she's still in school in New Haven, but she also knows she and Rachel are going to have to sit down and have a serious conversation about it.

They're always going to have important conversations to have, the rest of their lives laid out ahead of them. Quinn has a bit of a list, which includes formally introducing Rachel to her mother and Frannie. Essentially making sure they're aware how stupid with love she is for this human being she's managed to find and actually hold onto.

They're building up to it - Quinn can feel it - but first she receives a frantic call from Maxwell telling her that her sister's gone into labour. She has to remind him this is the third time they're going through this, and there's no need to panic., which actually does little to help him.

Kara offers to fly them to Sacramento within minutes, but Lena gently declines, stating that they wouldn't be able to explain their hasty arrival. Frannie probably still has hours to go, and Quinn allows Lena to lead where she can't.

Her sister is going into labour.

The entire thing isn't a new experience for her, not really. She missed Shepherd's birth, for obvious reasons, but Ramsey really is her little monster, Quinn the sixth person in their collective family to hold him in her arms and instantly falling in love.

This time, she's the third, Maxwell placing the little bundle in her arms after the gruelling fifteen hours it takes for baby number three to join the world. Tiny and still wriggling, Quinn marvels at the little face.

"Logan Henry, meet your Aunt Quinn," Maxwell murmurs, his own eyes wide and full of a new love. "Quinn, meet your newest nephew."

"Another boy," Frannie says from her bed, her head leaning back and staring at the ceiling. "Max, I swear to God." She and Maxwell made the decision to wait to find out the sex, both of them secretly hoping for a girl, and yet here they are with yet another perfect baby boy.

Quinn can't help her grin, winking at Maxwell. "You better have a word with your little swimmers when you try for baby number four."

His eyes widen, and Frannie pointedly tells Quinn, "If you weren't currently holding my very adorable son, I would throw something at you." She glares at her husband. "We're never having sex again."

"Ooh, I remember being a violent grump after I gave birth, as well," Quinn says, easy as ever as she looks at Logan's face again. He's settled now, eyes closed, comfortable in her hold. "Must run in the family," she comments lightly, and she's very aware of the silence that settles over the occupants of the maternity room.

Maxwell is standing close to her, Frannie resting in the room's only bed, and her mother sitting in an armchair in the corner. Lena's currently keeping her slightly-older nephews occupied in a playroom down the corridor, and Maxwell's family are still on their way. Which is for the best, really, because nobody else needs to hear about Quinn's past.

She can only imagine what's going through each of their heads right now, but she also knows they've all come a long way. There's still a lot they need to talk about, but Quinn knows she's luckier than most to have ended up with the family she has right now. No more, and no less.

"And I'm sure you will, again," Maxwell finally says, smile easy as he rests a hand on her shoulder. "Just gotta find your person first, hmm."

Well.

Quinn's pretty sure she's already done that.

"Oh," Quinn says, little Logan held securely in her arms. At the moment, he's almost a form of protection; some kind of safety between her and the aftermath of what she's about to say. "I actually have," she says, because Rachel is her forever. "I have a girlfriend."

The words come out easy, almost without thought, even if she's said them purposefully, and Quinn forces herself not to panic once they're out. She just keeps bobbing in place, determined to keep Logan lulled in sleep.

It's not a surprise. Her words can't be too much of a surprise to them. They must already know.

The room is silent, though.

Then Judy squeals. Actually squeals, like she's not a grown woman who just became a grandmother for the third time, and Logan squirms in Quinn's arms from the noise. She gently quiets him, shooting a glare at her mother, which she ignores.

Instead, Judy asks, "Sweetheart, do you really?"

Quinn's heart is pounding, but she's not afraid. "I do," she confirms. "She's tiny and dynamite and kind of a drama queen, but she's perfect and kind and puts up with me and I love her more than I thought I was even capable." She takes a deep breath. "It would mean a lot to me if you guys would get to know her, because the probability is really high that I'm going to spend the rest of my life with her."

Judy's eyes are still wide, as if she doesn't believe any of this is happening. Maxwell just looks a bit smug, smirk on his face, as if she's just confirmed something he's already known.

But it's Frannie she's really most concerned with, and it takes her a beat too long to look at her sister. She's just lying there, beautiful and obviously exhausted after pushing out an entire human being. But she's smiling. At Quinn. Eyes gentle and maybe a little knowing.

Huh.

Quinn's pretty sure Lena looks at her the same way.

"Are you happy?" Frannie asks, and it's such a loaded question. Though, it is telling that she doesn't phrase it as 'does she makes you happy?' because that isn't the kind of pressure Quinn would want to put on Rachel or their relationship.

Still, the question remains: is she happy?

Quinn drops her gaze to look at Logan's little pink face, wrinkles in his skin. The answer comes simply, then, and she doesn't look at any of them as she says, "I'm as close as I suspect I'll ever get," and it feels like the truth.


Quinn's first official CatCo article is published in the middle of August.

It's technically a solo piece, though closely supervised by Kara, and features stories from more than just her own experience with Operation Ellis. Lena knows the two of them have been working closely together the past few weeks, both spending an inconceivable amount of time in Gotham City interviewing other victims of the scandal.

Lena's not jealous.

Even if she were, she doesn't know which one she would be jealous of, anyway. It's not as if her work allows her to fly across the country and interview people on a whim. It would be great to spend more time with her girlfriend, and with her sister, but she has a company to run and there just isn't enough time in the day for that.

So, no, she's not at all jealous. Nothing like that. If she and Rachel have an endless thread of texts bitching about their girlfriends' never-ending obsession with each other, then that's just for the two of them to know.

But then Quinn's article is published, her words out there for the world to see, and Lena has never felt prouder. Proud enough that she organises a small get-together at her National City apartment, inviting all the important people in Quinn's life that she can realistically get in attendance within a reasonable time frame.

Rachel, of course, and Quinn's family in Sacramento. Lena hasn't seen them since Logan's birth, and she's quite certain Quinn hasn't, either, though Lena's sure Quinn talks to them more than Lena ever will.

Though, Judy does make a point of calling Lena once a week, just to check in with her, which is so much more than Lillian ever did. Lena wasn't sure she believed it when Judy offered to be Lena's family as well, but it's already been months, and Lena is nearly convinced she might end up belonging with them.

Barely a quarter of a century years old, and all she still really wants is just to belong.

The party is meant to be a surprise for Quinn, though, and Lena and Jess spend the latter half of the afternoon making sure everything has been organised and sorted for when Quinn is meant to get home from work. Kara's in charge of that, and Lena trusts her to get her back in one piece while maintaining the surprise.

Surprise.

Lena is reminded quite startlingly that Quinn's family hasn't actually met Rachel as the girlfriend, and it is -

Well.

Lena's never been more relieved by the presence of an actual baby before. Frannie can't seem to decide if she wants to pawn off her third son to literally anyone else or make sure he's as close to her as possible. It's a dilemma, sure, but it also allows everyone to focus on the new life while they all wait for Quinn to arrive with Kara.

It also allows Lena the time to take in her surroundings and accept that this is her life. These people are in her life and, if she's lucky, she'll get to keep them for forever.

Well, for as long as the world will allow her. She's never quite managed to be as optimistic as her girlfriend.

"Kara just texted the group," Alex suddenly calls out, looking only slightly distracted by the sight of Kelly with Baby Logan in her arms. Lena has a feeling Alex and Kelly are headed in only one direction at this point: towards their own forever. "They're on their way up."

Lena watches everyone move, finding their respective hiding positions. It really is such a shame they'll never be able to surprise Kara this way. She would be the best person for this moment, though Quinn does come pretty close to crying when she opens the front door and all her favourite people jump out and yell, "Congratulations on your first byline!"

She startles, stumbling back into Kara's solid form.

Logan immediately shrieks.

It's chaotic and wonderful and a bit of a disaster, but Lena loves every second of this amazing life she gets to live. Loves the way Kara takes such joy in Quinn's reaction, gently shoving her forward into the group hug awaiting her. Loves the way Quinn pretends she's not five seconds away from descending into an ugly-cry. Loves the way Rachel waits until Quinn has managed to greet her other family members and friends before she slides into Quinn's side and remains rooted there.

It's just a lot of love, and it is overwhelming.

Overwhelming to the point that she needs to escape for a few minutes once the evening has blended into the night. She catches Kara's eye across the room, making sure she's aware of her departure if she ends up looking for her, and then she leaves the room, wine glass in hand.

Lena chooses to step out onto the balcony, closing the door behind her and silencing the sounds of the party. She walks towards the railing and leans her forearms on it, looking out into the dark night.

There's a gentle breeze, and she finds her eyes slipping closed as she reflects on the day as a whole. The week, month, the entire year. It's so difficult to remember what her life was like twelve months ago. No Kara, and no Quinn. She felt truly alone in those months that Kara's letter sat on Jess' desk, useless and taunting, waiting for the right moment to disrupt her life in the best way.

Goodness.

How on Earth did she end up here?

"Hey," a voice says behind her, and Lena turns her head to see Quinn coming up behind her. She has a magazine in her hand, which Lena already recognises.

Lena smiles. "Is this what it's going to be like now?" she teases, "you're just going to carry around your article?"

Quinn chuckles, moving to stand beside Lena and lean against the railing the same way she is. "No," she says, "I just wanted to show you something."

"What is it?"

Quinn hands her the magazine and says, "I highlighted the important bit."

Lena doesn't mention she's read this article five times already. Quinn has a wonderful gift when it comes to writing, her voice somehow different to Kara's. It's almost softer, rooted deeper in her own emotion, and Lena understands now when Kara mentioned Quinn probably won't go into investigative journalism.

"Every bit is important," Lena tells her anyway.

Quinn rolls her eyes, shoulder pressing against Lena's. "Just read it."

Lena's eyes drop to the magazine, a certain paragraph highlighted in yellow near the end of the article. She's certain she already knows what it says, but her mouth still opens to read out loud. "'We cannot and should not sugarcoat or even mistake the impact of the injustice that has occurred here. Children of all kin stolen and sold, ripped from homes and plunged into others, families split apart and pieced together under pretense. The repercussions are far-reaching and will probably extend for many a generation, too many stars having to align in order to right this profound wrong. There will continue to be stories of children lost and children found, families reunited and those still searching for answers to questions they have yet to know the words to.'" She lifts her eyes to look at Quinn. "That's dark, dear."

Quinn just shakes her head, waving a hand. "Keep reading."

"'Misery cannot be calculated,'" Lena continues, "'This truth, I may have learned later in life, the same way I learned my family isn't the family I thought it was and I am not the person I thought I was. For a time, I thought those two discoveries went hand-in-hand, but I know better now. While it is true that there is a certain power in knowing your origins; in knowing exactly where you come from, I have also learned that there is another power that I want all other people affected by Operation Ellis to consider: one's self.'" Lena's voice lowers, and she's aware Quinn isn't actually breathing.

"Keep reading," Quinn says again, voice catching.

"'To know whom you are because of other people is perhaps comfort and security, but to know who you are because of one's self; that is power beyond measure, and we may spend the rest of our lives searching for it. The directions towards that destination are unclear, unfortunately. Maybe we're all going to be a little lost for forever, and maybe that's okay. It's always going to be a bumpy journey along this map they like to call life. It might be my own experience making me say this, but I now believe that's the best part of it all. Just imagine all the wonderful things we'll learn about ourselves along the way.'"

Quinn is just watching her, eyes full of affection, when Lena finishes reading.

Lena scrunches up her nose, handing back the magazine. "Ugh."

"What?" Quinn asks, visibly confused, but still amused.

"You're actually an optimist, aren't you?"

Quinn waits a beat, and then she laughs, unreserved and glorious. "You try and repel hope with Kara and Rachel around," she says, smile deep and everlasting.

Lena will concede that much, at least.

Eventually, Quinn's laughter tapers to something soft, her gaze meeting Lena's in that way it always has. Unafraid of what she might find there. "Maybe I am," she allows, sighing lightly and turning her attention to the night sky before them. "I probably have a way to go, though," she whispers, "but this is me trying."


Fin